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Fast surfing, broad scanning and deep diving: The influence of personality and study approach on students' information‐seeking behavior

Jannica Heinström (Department of Social and Political Sciences/Information Studies, Åbo Akademi University, Åbo, Finland)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 April 2005




To explore information behavior from a psychological perspective by relating information seeking to personality traits and study approaches.


The research design was quantitative and consisted of statistical analysis of three questionnaires, i.e. the NEO Five‐Factor Inventory measuring personality, the ASSIST test measuring approaches to studying, and a questionnaire regarding information behavior. A total of 305 university students who were in the process of writing a Master's thesis responded to the questionnaires.


Three information‐seeking patterns – fast surfing, broad scanning and deep diving – emerged from the statistical analyses. Fast surfing could be related to a surface study approach and emotionality, as well as to low openness to experience and low conscientiousness. Broad scanning was linked to extraversion, openness, and competitiveness, whereas deep diving was a search pattern typical of analytical students with a deep and strategic study approach.

Research limitations/implications

The results are based on descriptions of behaviour, not actual observations. Although the statistical results were significant, generalisable conclusions would have required more convincing figures. Further research is recommended in order to explore the three search styles in other populations and contexts.


Information‐seeking behaviour has not previously been studied in relation to the five‐factor model, which is regarded as the most modern personality theory to date. Understanding of the psychological reasons behind different information‐seeking styles is important for a holistic view of information behavior. These insights are valuable for researchers interested in user behavior as well as for practitioners like teachers and information professionals.



Heinström, J. (2005), "Fast surfing, broad scanning and deep diving: The influence of personality and study approach on students' information‐seeking behavior", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 61 No. 2, pp. 228-247.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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