Clara M. Chu

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The research on the information needs and uses of humanists has produced descriptions of general information seeking behaviour patterns and characteristics of document use. The research efforts to explain the information seeking behaviour of humanists have been limited and are quite recent. As well, information scientists have made little effort to understand the nature of scholarship in the humanities.;In the present study, the information seeking and scholarly activities of one group of humanists, literary critics, were examined in order to develop a descriptive model of the literary critic's work and the functions served by information during each stage of the process. Data from interviews with 31 literary critics were used to develop the preliminary model. A larger sample of literary critics was then surveyed as a test of the model. The survey results substantiated a six-stage model of literary criticism that includes: idea generation, preparation, elaboration, analysis and writing, dissemination, and further writing and dissemination. The information functions of each stage correspond to the objectives of that stage. Information needs and uses are most extensive during the preparation stage and the analysis and writing stage. As well, literary critics spend a proportionately higher amount of time on the activities pertaining to these two stages.;The results of the study suggest that literary criticism is an intellectual, creative, enjoyable, reading-centred, and solitary process; "research" is not used to describe literary criticism but rather represents the information searching undertaken during the preparation stage; ideas most often originate from issues arising from previous work or from teaching; and both formal and informal channels of information are important to the work of literary critics.;The holistic approach of linking information functions to research stages suggests a valid direction for studying and understanding information seeking behaviour. The findings of the study have implications for various areas of information work, such as reference and collection management, and for information workers to obtain a better understanding of the process of scholarship in literary criticism.



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