How people approach information seeking - an information engagement typology

A Pew Internet survey explores how people approach the search for information. What are the implications for librarians tasked with improving digital and information literacy?

According to the research several factors play into how people engage with facts and information:

  • How interested are they in the topic?
  • How much do they trust the sources of information?
  • How eager are they to learn more?
  • What aspects of their lives might be competing for their attention
  • How much access do they have to information?

These factors can combine to influence peoples’ information seeking behaviour.

The researchers describe five groups of people. Some are highly engaged with information while others have low trust in information sources.

The confident combine a strong interest in information with a confidence in their own ability to navigate the information landscape.

The eager and willing are active seekers of information with a strong interest in learning.  They are interested in news and trust sources of information. They are keen to improve their digital and information literacy.

The cautious and the curious are interested in news but have less confidence in sources of information – especially news organisations and the government.  More than any other group, they want to develop their own digital skills.

The doubtful are less interested in news, wary of sources of news and describe themselves as too busy to update their digital literacy skills.

The wary have a low interest in news and information and aren’t interested in developing their own information skills.

Implications for librarians

  • When it comes to transferring information skills, one size does NOT fit all
  • Many adults are simply not interested enough (or say they have no time) to develop their digital literacy skills
  • Library users are overrepresented in the two most engaged groups (the confident; the eager and willing)

The full research is available here.