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Genre and Typified Activities in Informing and Personal Information Management

Genre Theory in Information Studies

ISBN: 978-1-78441-255-5, eISBN: 978-1-78441-254-8

Publication date: 6 February 2015



In this chapter, I bring a rhetorical genre theory lens to the study of two sets of information activities: information seeking and informing in a clinical setting, and personal information management in the household.


I begin by characterizing each candidate genre and show how it is constituted, created, repurposed, and used. I then show how that genre is embedded within a local genre set. This analysis maps the institutional, interactional, and intertextual connections, showing how generic forms interact with other oral and textual genres within the setting. Finally, I situate the single genre and genre set within the broader genre system to show how individual genres are both socially and intertextually connected with institutions and organizations beyond the local setting.


A genre analysis shows how “information” is accomplished out of the social and documentary practices of participants in particular settings and elucidates the shifting and complex nature of contexts in which information actors operate. Combining three levels of analysis shows how the actions of individuals are locally negotiated but also situated within broader structural constraints and discourse communities. A genre approach therefore offers a window on the elusive concept of “context” in information needs, seeking, and use research.




Both studies were supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I am grateful to Elisabeth Davies and Philippa Spoel, for their co-authorship of earlier articles from these two studies, to the numerous research assistants who assisted with data collection, transcription, and analysis, and to the participants who shared their lives so generously.


McKenzie, P.J. (2015), "Genre and Typified Activities in Informing and Personal Information Management", Genre Theory in Information Studies (Studies in Information, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 67-90.



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