The purpose of this paper is to review Wilson's (1981) seminal article, “On user studies and information needs” (Journal of Documentation, 1981, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 3‐15) as part of a series celebrating the Journal's 60th anniversary.
This paper adopts a literature‐based conceptual analysis, taking Wilson's paper as the starting point, and evaluating the significance of, and later developments in, the issues dealt with in that article.
Wilson's article has had a significant effect on the development of information science. It dealt with several fundamental issues, including the nature of information itself and of information need, models of information seeking and information behaviour, particularly those based on phenomenological or “whole life” concepts, appropriate research methods for these areas, and the nature of information science as an academic discipline.
The paper provides a perspective on the development of information science over 30 years, with particular emphasis on the study of human information behaviour.
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