Information search process

The information search process ( ISP ) is a six-step process of information seeking behavior in library and information science . The ISP was first suggested by Carol Kuhlthau in 1991.

It describes the thoughts, feelings and actions of the searcher, and is often used to describe students. [1]


Stage 1: Initiation

During the first stage, initiation , the information seeker recognizes the need for new information to complete an assignment. [2] As they think more about the topic, they may discuss the topic with others and brainstorm the topic further. [3] This stage of the information seeking process is filled with feelings of apprehension and uncertainty.

Stage 2: Selection

In the second stage, selection , the individual begins to decide what topic will be investigated and how to proceed. [2] Some information retrieval may occur at this point, resulting in multiple rounds of query reformulation. [4] The uncertainty associated with the first stage often fades with the selection of a topic, and is replaced with a sense of optimism.

Stage 3: Exploration

In the third stage, exploration , information on the topic is gathered and a new personal knowledge is created. [5] Students endeavor to locate new information and situate it within their previous understanding of the topic. [2] In this stage, feelings of anxiety.

Stage 4: Formulation

During the fourth stage, formulation , the information seeker starts to evaluate the information that has been gathered. At this point, a focused perspective begins to form and there is not much confusion and uncertainty. [5]Formulation is considered to be the most important stage of the process. [3] The information will be given a personalized construction of the topic from the general information gathered in the exploration phase. [2]

Stage 5: Collection

During the fifth stage, collection , the information seeker knows what is needed to support the focus. Now presented with a clear focus, personalized topic, the information seeker will experience greater interest, increased confidence, and more successful searching. [2] [6]

Stage 6: Search closure

In the sixth and final stage, search closure , the individual has completed the information search. Now the information seeker will summarize and report on the information that was found through the process. The information will have a sense of relief and, depending on the fruits of their search, either satisfaction or disappointment. [2]


  1. Jump up^ Bawden, David; Robinson, Lyn (2012). An introduction to information science . London: Facet. pp. 196-197. ISBN  978-1-85604-810-1 .
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f Kuhlthau, Carol (2004). Seeking Meaning: a process approach to library and information services . London: Libraries Unlimited. ISBN  1-59158-094-3 .
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b Shannon, Donna. “Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process.” School Library Media Activities Monthly, Vol. 19, no. 2, October 2002: p. 19-23.
  4. Jump up^ Jansen, BJ, Booth, DL, & Spink, A. (2009). Patterns of query modification during Web searching. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 60 (3), 557-570. 60 (7), 1358-1371.
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b Isbell, Dennis and Lisa Kammerlocher. “Implementing Kuhlthau: A New Model for Library and Reference Instruction.” Reference Services Review , Fall / Winter 1998: p. 33-44.
  6. Jump up^ Rubin, Richard E. (2000). Foundations of Library and Information Science . New York: Neal Schuman. ISBN  1-55570-402-6 .

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