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Information seeking by geoscientists: an update on Bichteler and Ward (1989)

Knut Alstad (Geological Survey of Norway, Trondheim, Norway)
Morten Hertzum (University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 4 December 2017

Issue publication date: 7 February 2018




The purpose of this paper is to investigate how often geoscientists use different information sources and how this pattern of source use balances their perceptions of the quality and ease of use of the information sources.


The geoscientists at the Geological Survey of Norway were surveyed about their information-seeking behavior. The response rate was 70 percent.


The geoscientists primarily relied on web search and colleagues for information. These two information sources were perceived as easy to use, more so than bibliographic databases (GeoRef, Web of Science, and the library database). Bibliographic databases were used infrequently and perceived as yielding poorer quality results than consulting a colleague. The likelihood of using web search and colleagues to find information about a new topic was determined by the ease of using these sources. In contrast, the quality of the resulting information did not determine the frequency with which any of the information sources were used. The geoscientists who spent more time looking for information searched the web more often, had more reservations toward the quality of information obtained from colleagues, and read more journal articles and conference papers.

Research limitations/implications

Geoscientists’ use of an information source is self-reinforcing and unlikely to increase through improving its quality alone. It should be noted that the study is restricted to one geoscience organization.


The main reference about the information-seeking behavior of geoscientists is almost three decades old. This study provides an update.



Alstad, K. and Hertzum, M. (2018), "Information seeking by geoscientists: an update on Bichteler and Ward (1989)", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 74 No. 2, pp. 447-460.



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