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Kuhlthau's Information Search Process Model

LIS 532: Curriculum Role of the Media Specialist - Model presentation from Olivia Schauf and Jill Warner

Olivia Schauf

on 13 January 2016

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Transcript of Kuhlthau's Information Search Process Model

Topic selection
A general area or topic is identified and initial uncertainty turns to a brief sense of optimism and readiness to accomplish the task.
Task Initiation
The beginning of the process when feelings of confusion, uncertainty and apprehension are common. When students have been given an assignment this is when task initiation starts.
A difficult phase when students have selected the topic but then begin to doubt themselves, the adequacy of the information they found, and their own abilities.
Focus Formulation
The most important conceptual phase in the ISP when a perspective is formed and confidence is regained. Students begin to think, reflect, interpret, connect and extend.
Information Collection
Gathering information to support the focus identified in the formulation stage to further connect with and shape the information obtained.
Kuhlthau Model
Search Closure
History and Major Players
Importance of Inquiry and Research Models
Affective (Feelings)
: Initial feelings of uncertainty, confusion and frustration
Cognitive (Thoughts)
: Shift to personal knowledge and information content.
Physical (Actions)
: Thoughts change from vague to more clear and interest increases.
Uncertainty Principle
: A cognitive state which affects symptoms of anxiety and lack of confidence. Uncertainty and anxiety are expected in early stages of the ISP process.
The ability to explain the focused perspective of the topic to others in a meaningful way.
Zones of Intervention
- The areas in which an media specialist may assist and support students in their information search.
Carol Collier Kuhlthau was the sole developer and researcher of the Information Search Process (ISP)
This model was developed from the findings of five studies and was intended to serve as a guide for designing instructional programs.
Kuhlthau’s Model, known as the Information Search Process (ISP), is one of the most highly cited works in Library and Information Science.
The Information Search Process is a seven stage model of the users’ familiarity and use of the information seeking process.

Model presentation from Olivia Schauf and Jill Warner
Kuhlthau’s research explores the characteristics of thinking, feeling, and acting in each of the seven stages of the model. Her model was one of the first to investigate the affective feelings of a person in the process of information seeking as well as the cognitive and physical aspects of the process.

Of particular importance, the Information Search Process is the belief that uncertainty, both affective and cognitive, increase and decrease during the process of information seeking.

Kuhlthau’s model is described as a model for developing information skills that are fundamental to information literacy.
Kuhlthau developed her model after noting that students often had problems utilizing information to create their own style of learning. In other words, students looked for a “perfect” project and hoped to find one “right” answer.

Kuhlthau described that advances in information technology and the accessibility to the vast resources may intensify the users’ sense of confusion and uncertainty because “everything” is available at once.
Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process is unique because she observed the reactions of students by observing their work, interviewed them, and then tracked their research progress. Kuhlthau’s research stressed the students’ attitude and their emotional reaction to their work; making her research particularly relevant and valid. According to the Information Age Inquiry Web site, a project created by Danny Callison, Ed.D and Annette Lamb, Ph.D.,
“Carol Kuhlthau’s work transfers well into the digital age.”
By combining a constructivist approach to information age learning, Kuhlthau expanded her thinking to include strategies for coaching students in the ISP in the areas of collaborating, continuing, conversing, charting and composing.
Kuhlthau’s Model has been the subject of numerous research studies and the results of that research have been cited in many peer reviewed articles and publications. For these reasons, we would recommend the use of the Information Search Process Model.
Kracker, J. (2002). Research Anxiety and Students’ Perceptions of
Research: An Experiment. Part I. Effect of Teaching Kuhlthau’s ISP Model. Journal of The American Society For Information Science and Technology, 53(4), 282-294.

Part I of the study provided a detailed description of the experimental design and reported on quantitative results. Kracker reported that “
Kuhlthaus’ model presented in a 30-minute format can reduce the anxiety
that is often associated with research paper assignments for novice researchers.
Response to the model was positive, and some students expressed the wish that they had learned about it sooner”
(Kracker, p. 291).
Branch, J. L. (2003). Instructional Intervention is the Key: Supporting
Adolescent Information Seeking. School Libraries Worldwide, 9(2), 47-61.

“...Suggestions for practitioners would be the following.
1. Spend time exploring research process models such as Kuhlthau's (1993) Information Search Process and
have students think about their own research process throughout the research inquiry

Focus equally on the affective domain along with the cognitive domain
to support students throughout a research inquiry (use Kuhlthau's affective domain as a guide).

Provide time for students to gain background knowledge
about the topic before expecting them to focus and provide graphic organizers such as webs to support focus formulation.”
Understand how students search
Knows the role of the LMS in the Information Search Process
Unique in addressing the searchers thoughts, feelings, and actions in the search process
Deconstructs the search process to understandable steps
This model shows library media specialists the best time to assist students in their information search. Through thorough research and exploration Carol Kuhlthau created this model which describes
how students react to the information search process.

Kuhlthau says in her article “The Process of Learning” that
“The central goal underlying this restructuring is to instill in students a sense of the process of learning from a variety of sources of information” (1995).
For school librarians to be effective they need to understand the process in which students seek and internalize information.
Students will learn the skills of collaborating, continuing, conversing, composing, and charting as strategies to use in their research process.
Kracker, J. & Wang, P. (2002). Research Anxiety and Students'
Perceptions of research: an Experiment. Part II. Content Analysis of their Writings on Two Experiences. Journal of The American Society For Information Science and Technology, 53(4), 295-307.

Part II of the study reported on content analysis of students’ writings about their experiences working on two research projects. It was noted that “the relationship between anxiety and various cognitive aspects of research strongly supports the idea that research anxiety is more than library anxiety.” Further, the study verified Kuhlthau’s finding in that “nearly half of the students did not form a focus during their information seeking.”
The conclusion of “both Part I and Part II suggest that a 30-minute presentation of the ISP model could substantially increase awareness of the affective aspects associated with research and reduce anxiety” (Kracker, Wang, 2002, p. 303).
Recommended Websites
- This involves students working in a group setting to find information. It encourages students to explore multiple ideas at once, to relate to their peers, and to delegate responsibilities to create a finished product.
- Through this process students explore their topic past their initial inquiry. Continuing their research further helps students gain depth on their subject.
- Encouraging students to discuss their research topic helps to form an idea of what they are looking for. Oftentimes, as students talk about what they are researching, they gain a better understanding of what they need. This helps to hone their topic.
- By having students write a short summary of their search they may form thoughts about their topic in a more direct way. It helps mold incomplete or disconnected theories into complete thoughts.
- Charting allows students to see data in a new way. When information is transformed by the students to a chart they gain a better understanding of its properties.


Annotated Bibliography
Branch, J. L. (2003). Instructional Intervention is the Key: Supporting Adolescent Information Seeking. School Libraries
Worldwide, 9(2), 47-61.

Branch’s article explores two studies that look at adolescent information seeking processes. The first examined the processes used by a group of junior high students when using CD-ROM encyclopedias. The second followed a group of eighth grade students that were assigned a large research project using print and digital resources. Branch noted that in the first study the students used three main information seeking processes of entering search terms, skimming the articles located and then browsed the article outlines to locate the answer. The students’ navigation skills and confidence improved during this process. Conversely, the students in the second study were less successful as they found themselves at various stages of the Kuhlthau model. Branch noted that focus formulation occurred during their eighth session together and the students needed emotional support, instruction, and mediation during the entire process. Branch concluded that both studies revealed that students needed “teaching to make them better searchers. Teachers and school librarians need to examine how they prepare, facilitate, and evaluate or reflect on information seeking and inquiry experiences” (p. 57).
Callison, D. & Lamb, A. (2005-2011). Information Search Process (ISP). Retrieved April 4, 2013, from

The Information Age Inquiry Website is a project created by Danny Callison, Ed.D, and Annette Lamb, Ph.D. It combines resources from workshops and previous publications along with original works. The Information Search Process model is one of the models discussed on this site. The article dedicated to Kuhlthau’s model describes the history of the model noting that although numerous models were developed in the 1980s and early 1990s, Kuhlthau’s model was unique because it was based on research specifically designed in this area. Of interest, the article outlines seven stages of the Information Search Process. In addition to the original stages of initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection, and presentation, this article discusses a seventh stage of “assessing the process.” Further, the article includes a video clip of Kuhlthau discussing the four basic steps of teaching library skills to help students develop information skills. These four skills include recall, summarize, paraphrase, and extend.
Kracker, J. (2002). Research Anxiety and Students’ Perceptions of Research: An Experiment. Part I. Effect of Teaching Kuhlthau’s ISP
Model. Journal of The American Society For Information Science and Technology, 53(4), 282-294.

This article is part one of a two part study of the effectiveness of a 30-minute presentation of the Kuhlthau Information Search Process (ISP) model on student’s perceptions of research and research paper anxiety. The study was conducted in an upper division upper graduate course, Technical and Professional Writing, in the fall, 1999. This article reports on the results of the quantitative analysis.
Kracker, J. & Wang, P. (2002). Research Anxiety and Students’ Perceptions of research: an Experiment. Part II. Content Analysis of their
Writings on Two Experiences. Journal of The American Society For Information Science and Technology, 53(4), 295-307.

The results of part two of Kracker and Wang’s research analysis of the ISP model and students’ perceptions regarding research and anxiety associated with research are discussed in this article. Part two of the study concentrated on the qualitative analysis of the participants’ descriptions of a memorable past experience with a research paper project and the current research paper for the course. This article describes that analysis of the data that confirmed Kuhlthau’s ISP model and revealed various affective and cognitive aspects of research and writing.
Kuhlthau, C. (1995). The Process of Learning from Information. School Libraries Worldwide,
1(1), 1-12.

This article details Carol Kuhlthau’s model for the information search process she developed. It describes the stages that students go through as they are searching for information and the skills they gain or need to obtain as they learn. Kuhlthau also recognizes the library media specialists role in this processes as a facilitator of holistic learning.
Kuhlthau, C. Carol Collier Kuhlthau, Rutgers University. Retrieved April 4, 2013 from

Kuhlthau’s professional Website at Rutgers University outlines the historical background of her Information Search Process model and provides an abstract of her detailed research and publications regarding this model. The Website also includes reference to other professional citations to her model as well as the numerous articles and books she has written over the years on this topic.
Shannon, D. (2002). Kuhlthau's Information Search Process. School Library Monthly, 19(1), 19-23.

In this article Donna Shannon gives background information to the Kuhlthau information search process and the roles that librarians can take to help students through this process. The author describes the search process in depth through the six stages of the search process, the zones of intervention, and zones of mediation. This will give the reader a general overview of the process and how it can be implemented in a school library.
This model also approaches the information search process in an inclusive way. It addresses the students thoughts, feelings, and actions while they move through the their research. This helps librarians understand the process from the students perspective. Kuhlthau also gives tools librarians can teach their students to become effective searchers. The model has become a highly used approach for the student search process.
This is the final stage of the search process. This is a personal assessment which, often leaves students with a feeling of success or disappointment.
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