That uncharted-territory feeling

For my Information Resources and Services class, our final project is an annotated bibliography of research into the information-seeking behavior of a particular group. My initial idea was to choose voters as the group I’d research; I figured that, since information about candidates and ballot initiatives comes from such a variety of sources, and since the question of how people inform themselves during election seasons is such a perennial one, there’d be a lot of studies on the subject.

Turns out, hardly anyone in the infosciences has written about voters and their information-seeking patterns. I found a bunch of articles in political science and advertising journals on the impact of campaign ads and the rationality of voters’ choices, but that isn’t quite what I’m after. Nor are the handful of articles on how librarians can better provide election information to their patrons (this bibliography is very specifically supposed to be about how people look for information, not how to get it to them). The professor just told me that nobody in her previous classes has worked on this topic before. Which surprised me, considering that there are a lot of very politically aware librarians out there.

So then I thought I might focus on community groups instead, but that looks like it might turn out to be another blind alley. I considered changing my topic to scholarly information-seeking, since I’ve already done some thinking about the process of scholarly research. Yesterday it occurred to me: what about independent scholars? Has anyone written anything on what the information universe looks like to those who aren’t affiliated with a college or university but are still pursuing scholarship? I got all excited for about half an hour and then found … practically zilch. Back to the drawing board, it looks like.

The downside to all of this is that I’ll probably have to switch topics. But the upside is that I seem to have identified a couple of wide-open research areas. I recognize, with a certain glee, the feeling of stumbling onto relatively uncharted territory that I’d previously assumed had to have been charted. I think the logical next step — once I have some research methodology coursework under my belt, because I’ve never done a user study before — is to start thinking about how I can write those articles that don’t yet exist.

One Response to “That uncharted-territory feeling”

  1. brd says:

    This would be very interesting. I hope you do eventually study this.