Friday, October 7, 2011

Abstracting to Distraction

We were tasked this week with abstracting from an academic study. As with a lot of summarizing writing, it turned out to be harder than it looked.

Indicative Abstract
Erdelez, S. (1999) "Information encountering: it's more than just bumping into information." Bulletin of the American Association for Information Science [Online], 25(3), 25-29.
The author seeks to define and raise awareness of information encountering. Erdelez feels strongly that it is a previously underreported area of research that has great potential. Her exact methodology is unclear; however, solicited subjects were interviewed on their experience of random discoveries of data. (Previous research has focused on guided data seeking.) Her results reinforce her thesis of the validity of serendipitous knowledge. She outlines four categories of information seekers: non-encounterers, occasional encounterers, encounterers and super-encounterers. Erdelez discusses the emotional effects, and how needs met further develop information encountering. Training IT professionals, adapting IT software and explaining so-called irrational information behaviour would all be potential routes for further study.

Analysis of Abstracting
I feel our example is more mainstream or even journalistic in style, simply giving an overall view of the work. Too much focus was perhaps given to the possible future follow-up, and criticism of methodology should have been omitted. It seems difficult in abstracting to balance the need to provide information for future database users with promoting the study. I guess one just has to focus on giving what information is crucial in determining a study’s relevance to a potential researcher.

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