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Using internet groups in situations of information poverty : topics and information needs

Hasler, Laura and Ruthven, Ian and Buchanan, Steven (2014) Using internet groups in situations of information poverty : topics and information needs. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 65 (1). pp. 25-36. ISSN 1532-2890

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Abstract

This study explores the use of online newsgroups and discussion groups by people in situations of information poverty. Through a qualitative content analysis of 200 posts from across Internet groups, we identify topics and information needs expressed by people who feel they have no other sources of support available to them. We uncover various health, wellbeing, social and identity issues which are not only crucial to the lives of the people posting, but which they are unwilling to risk revealing elsewhere – offering evidence that these online environments provide an outlet for the expression of needs in situations of critical and hidden information need. To enable this analysis, we first describe our method for reliably identifying situations of information poverty in messages posted to these groups and our coding approach. Our work contributes to the study of both information seeking within the context of information poverty and the use of Internet groups as sources of information and support, bridging the two by exploring the manifestation of information poverty in this particular online setting.