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A dual lens approach to exploring informal communication's influence on learning in a political party

Susannah Micaela Hanlon (Computing and Information Science, Faculty of Engineering and Environment, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 12 February 2021

Issue publication date: 24 June 2021




The study aims to explore and discuss the extent of influence of informal communication on learning in a European social democracy political party through a dual lens approach combining information behaviour and organisational learning perspectives.


The paper presents results from an in depth qualitative study, whereby data were collected through semi-structured and episodic narrative interviews. Template analysis was used.


Informal conversations were identified as intrinsic to the work of the political party. They did influence learning at individual and group levels, and there was a degree of diffusion within the organisation, although the latter was found to depend on opportunity, individual self-efficacy, level of involvement in the party and perceptions of who has influence. The dual lens approach facilitated greater levels of granularity of analysis at individual and group levels of learning.

Research limitations/implications

The paper highlights the benefits of using a dual lens approach to add depth to the interpretation of the research findings. Due to the small number of participants further research is needed to verify and extend the results and support a greater degree of transferability.


The information behaviour and organisational research theory that underpin the research have not been used together in this way before, and the context for the phenomenon being researched, a traditional political party struggling against the rise of populism in the 21st century, is both contemporary and understudied in each of the theory areas.



To Dr Julie McLeod, Department of Computing and Information Science, Northumbria University, an insightful and supportive mentor throughout the research process, and Dr Geoff Walton, Department of Language, Information and Communications, Manchester Metropolitan University, an inspirational guide on the information behaviour aspects of this research.


Hanlon, S.M. (2021), "A dual lens approach to exploring informal communication's influence on learning in a political party", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 77 No. 4, pp. 965-989.



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