An Analysis of User Interface Elements Supporting Information Seeking Behavior Based on Dervin’s Sense Making Theory

Document Type : مقالات پژوهشی


1 Kerman University of Medical Sciences

2 Ferdowsi University of Mashahd

3 ferdowsi University of Mashhad


Purpose: Scientific databases are the most important and useful sources where information is accessible via user interfaces. One of the approaches to eliminating the existing challenges in databases user interface is utilizing the Sense-making Theory (SMT) approach. SMT approach helps the users to understand problematic situations they have faced with and bridges the cognitive and information gap by using the elements of user interfaces. The aim of this study is to evaluate user interfaces of Ebsco, Proquest and Science Direct databases in supporting users’ information seeking behavior based on SMT.
Methodology: This study was a mixed methods survey. The samples of this study have been chosen among M.A. and PhD students majoring in Humanities/Social Sciences and Sciences/Engineering in Ferdowsi University of Mashhad.
Findings: Findings showed that SMT elements support users’ information seeking behavior in databases’ user interfaces which have been analyzed. It is also found that the help of databases’ user interface to users’ information seeking behavior was in a desired level. This study showed that the current user interfaces in these databases are not able to support the users’ information seeking behavior in problematic situations and put them in confusing and ambiguous conditions. Furthermore, the results indicated that elements of Dervin’s SMT are applicable to database user interfaces, and are probably effective in re-designing and improving these environments.


دروین، برندا (1992). از نگاه استفاده‌کننده: معرفی روش‌شناسی کیفی-کمی معنابخشی. ترجمه ابراهیم افشار. فصلنامه کتابداری و اطلاع‌رسانی، 7 (1): 102-80.
Azami, M., Fattahi, R. and Parierokh, M. (2011). Matching the user interface in digital libraries with the user information seeking behaviour: A sense making approach, International Conference of Asian Special Libraries (ICoASL 2011) on building user trust: the key to special libraries renaissance in the digtal area in association with Japan Special libraries Association(JSLA) organised by Special Libraries Association (SLA) – Asian Chapter, Tokyo, Japan
Azami, M. and Fattahi, R. (2010). Math graphical databseses' user interface with Ellis's information seeking behavior model: a qualitative approach. QQML2010: International Conference on Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries, Chania, Crete, Greece, 25-28 May 2010.
Boscarioli, C., Sanchez, G. and Bassi, P. R. (2007). The use of sense-making as an evaluation strategy for human-computer interactionدرصد 7Eclodis/Patricia/dsvis05_v5.doc
Choo, C. W.; Detlor, B. and Turnbull. D. (2000). Information seeking on the web: an integrated model of searching and browsing.Retrievedfrom:
Dervin, B. (1983). An overview of sense-making research: concepts, methods and results. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association. Dallas, TX.
Dervin, B. (1992). From the mind's eye of the user: the sense-making qualitative-quantitative methodology. In J. D. Glazier & R. R. Powell (Eds.), Qualitative Research in Information Management (pp. 64-81).
Dervin, B. (1993). Verbing communication: Mandate for disciplinary invention. Journal of Communication, 43 (3), 45-54. Reprinted in: B. Dervin & L. Foreman-Wernet (with E. Lauterbach) (Eds.). (2003). Sense-Making Methodology reader: Selected writings of Brenda Dervin (pp. 101-110). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Dervin, B. (1998). Sense-making theory and practice: an overview of user interests in knowledge seeking and use. Journal of Knowledge Management, 2(2), 36-46.
Dervin, B. (1999). On studying information seeking methodologically: The implications of connecting metatheory to method. Information Processing and Management, 35, 727-750.
Dervin, B. (2003). Sense-Making’s journey from metatheory to methodology to method: An example using information seeking and use as research focus. In B. Dervin & L. Foreman-Wernet (with E. Lauterbach) (Eds.). (2003). Sense-Making Methodology reader: Selected writings of Brenda Dervin (pp. 133-164). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Dervin, B. (2007) Focus Groups for Participatory Research: Design using Systematic Dialogic Principles Drawn from Sense-Making Methodology, in Participatory Communication Research Section International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR, Paris, France.
Dervin, B. (2008). Interviewing as Dialectical Practice: Sense-Making Methodology as Exemplar.Paper presented at International Association of Media and Communication Research. Stockholm, July 20-25.
Dervin, B. and Frenette, M. (2001). Sense making methodology: communicating communication with campaigns audiences. In R. E. Rice and C.K. Atkin(Eds), public communication campaigns (3rd ed., pp.69-87).
Darlymple, P.W. (2001). A quarter century of user-centered study: The empact of Dervin on LIS research. Library and Information Science Research, 23(2): 155-65.
Dervin, B. and Naumer, C. (2011). Sense‐Making,.Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition. 1:1, 4696‐4707
Fisher, Erdelez and McKechni )2008(. Theories of information behavior. Medham, NJ: Information Today.
Gross, M. K. (2010). Sense making in theory and pratice a metaphorical foundation and implication for health information seeking. Master of science in library and information sciences, Illinois University.
Hodgkinson, G. P. (2002). Ambiguity in IT adaptation: making sense of First Class in a social work setting. Information Systems Journal 10(2), 87-104.
Jacobson, T. L. (1971) Sense making in a database environment. Information Processing & Management, 27(6): 647–657.
Kari, J. (2010). Diversity in the conceptions of information use.Information Research, 15(3) colis709 Retrieved 2012-01-08 from:
Kelin, G., Moon, B. & Hoffman, R.R. (2006). Making sense of sensemaking 1: Alternative perspectives.IEE Intelligent Systems, 21(4), 70-73.
Kuhlthau, C.C. (1991). Inside the information search process: Information seeking from the user's perspective. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42, 361-371.
Lai, H. (2012) Reconceptualising knowledge seeking in knowledge management: towards a knowledge seeking process model.Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.
Laqua, S, Sasse, A.M., Gates, C. & Greenspan, S. (2010). Making sense of the unknown: Knowledge dissemination in organizations. Retrieved 2012-01-08 from:
Paul, S. A. and Reddy, C. R. (2010). A framework for sensemaking in collaborative information seeking. Retrieved from:
Perry, J. M.; Janneck, C.D. & Pottenger, W.M. (2009) Supporting Cognitive Models of Sensemaking in Analytics Software Systems. Rutgers University, DIMACS Research Report 2009-12.
Pirolli, P., and Card, S. K. (2005).The Sensemaking Process and Leverage Points for Analyst Technology as Identified Through Cognitive Task Analysis. Paper presented at the International Conference on Intelligence Analysis. From:
Qu, Y., and Furnas, G. W. (2008). Model-Driven Formative Evaluation of Exploratory Search: A Study under a Sensemaking Framework. In R. W. White, G. Marchionini & G. Muresan (Eds.), Evaluating Exploratory Search Systems:Special Issue of Information Processing and Management.
Russell, D. M. and Pirolli, P. (2009). An overview of sensemaking: A view from the workshop CHI 2009. Retrieved from:
Savolainen, R. and Kari, J. (2006). Facing and bridging gaps in web searching. Information Pricessing and Management, 42(2), 519-537.
Snowden, D.J. (2005). Multi-Ontology sense making: A new simplicity in decision making. Information in Primary Health Care, 13(1), 45-54.
Solomon, P. (1997). Discovering information behavior in sense making: I. Time and Timing. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 48(12), 1197-1108.
Solomon, P. (1997a). Discovering information behavior in sense making: II. The Social .Journal of the American Society for Information Science,48(12), 1109-1126.
Solomon, P. (1997b). Discovering information behavior in sense making: II.The Person.Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 48(12), 1227-1138.
Swain, D. E. (1996). Information search process model: how freshmen begin research. ASIS 1996 19-24.
Wai-Yi, C. B. (2002). Using Sense making to study information seeking and use in the workplace. Retrieved 2012-01-08 from:
Weick, K.E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.