Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Library & Information Science


Roma Harris


Background. To “classify” in Library and Information Sciences (LIS) usually involves an engagement with formally established classification systems, such as the Dewey Decimal Classification. In this dissertation I suggest an alternative path for LIS scholars – one that considers the application of LIS theories about classification to the investigation of everyday life “classification” processes and technologies. Focusing on the knowledge domain of food, health, and eating, I consider how food experts and non-experts divide foods into groups according to their health properties and how closely these groups reflect the “classification” of food presented in Canada’s Food Guide. Method. The research design involved two phases. In Phase 1, 30 food-interested participants completed two q methodology exercises and one open card sort involving different foods and their health properties. In Phase 2, 18 Registered Dietitians completed an open card sort exercise and were interviewed about how they respond in their professional practice to people who have “alternative” views about healthy eating. Results. Phase 1 revealed four groups who shared different understandings of “healthy eating”: vegans who do not separate health from animal rights, participants who are committed to idea of balanced health, participants whose idea of health is connected to sharing foods in community setting, and participants who are strongly committed to organic principles. Each group’s methods for sorting foods were clearly influenced by the views of their group’s understanding of healthy eating. Phase 2 revealed that Registered Dietitians were committed to evidence-based, client-centered practice. Discussion. Registered Dietitians are important mediators of health information, but their preference for evidence-based information led several of them to emphasize the “misinformation” that their clients rely upon to make their eating decisions. Lay participants’ perspectives on food and health were reflected in their personal organization of foods but rather than being “misinformed”, their understandings of food and health draw attention to the beliefs that inform their food choices, including values about animal rights, social (community) aspects of eating, and the importance of local, organic food production. This study suggests a need for more research about how expert knowledge is negotiated in everyday life, including everyday organizational practices.