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Information Transfer 1


Information Transfer:

Information Seeking Models

Elaine Shelburne

Emporia State University

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Information Transfer: Information Search Models

Today in the proliferation of information available, librarians and teachers are scurrying to

help high school students effectively seek accurate information. As a result, a number of

information search models have been developed from research, and they continue to be

evaluated. This paper will follow the information transfer process of two of these models from

their creation, through dissemination, organization, diffusion, utilization, and finally,

preservation. The two models are the Information Search Process (ISP) derived and created

from research by Carol Collier Kuhlthau (1993, 2004), and The Big6, designed by Michael

Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz (1990).


Knowledge is “facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or

education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject; what is known in a particular

field or in total; facts and information” according to The New Oxford American Dictionary

(Jewell and Abate, 2001). Typically, knowledge is created by “universities, Think Tanks, news

organizations, corporate researchers …(or) government agencies …(by) professors, scientists,

journalists, information professionals…(or)…Web masters” (Greer, Grover, and Fowler, 2007,

p. 123).

Kuhlthau conducted research to understand the student’s perspective during the

information seeking process. She developed a subsequent model based on her research that

includes six stages that the seeker goes through; these six stages are initiation, selection,

exploration, formulation, collection and presentation (Kuhlthau, 1993, 2004). Eisenberg and

Berkowitz (1990) created an information problem solving process that includes a six-step

strategy to help students understand the process and subsequently follow through to carry it out.
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These six steps are task definition, information seeking strategies, location and access, use of the

information, synthesis of the information, and evaluation of the process.

The referee process in peer-reviewed journals reveals newly created knowledge generated

from ideas and research. This process enables peers to review a submitted article, add

suggestions, and possibly return the article to author(s) for revisions. Upon resubmission, the

article is then given approval, or not, by the editor for publishing. School Library Media

Research (SLMR) “is an official journal of the American Association of School Libraries….The

purpose is to promote and publish high quality original research concerning the management,

implementation and evaluation of school library media programs” (School Library Media

Research, 2008). Three studies emerging from Kuhlthau’s ISP and The Big6 and published in

SLMR are summarized in the following paragraphs.

The Big6 was the basis for continued research in a case study entitled The Big Six

information skills as a metacognitive scaffold: a case study by Wolf, Brush and Sara (2003).

The manuscript for the study and results were submitted to for peer review by SLMR, August

2002, and they were revised February 2003. The manuscript was approved in June, 2003, for

publication. This group of university professors found, in summary, that “Through a

collaborative effort between school library media specialists and kindergarten through twelfth-

grade teachers, this type of metacognitive support can be effectively integrated into the school

curriculum” (Wolf, Brush, and Save, 2003).

Kuhlthau’s ISP model and the Big6 along with other research models were evaluated in a

study entitled Students as authentic researchers: a new prescription for the high school research

assignment, by Carol Gordon, Head, Educational Resources Library, Boston University.

Implications for Teachers and Librarians, as follows: “The underlying purpose of this study was
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to collect data that contributed to the reflective practice of classroom teachers and librarians who

design and implement research assignments (Gordon, 1999).”

A third study that includes the Big6 and Kuhlthau’s ISP is a science fair article, SLMR

volume 6. Examining Perceptions of the Science Fair Project: Content or Process? by Jinx

Stapleton Watson. The Referee Record shows the following: The manuscript was submitted

September 2002, the manuscript was revised January 2003, and the study was board approved

for publishing in March 2003 (Watson, 2003).

As a result of Kuhlthau’s research and ISP, plus the Big6 model, these three

aforementioned studies were implemented and published, creating additional knowledge that “is

derived from an explicit theory or theories, embedded in a social context of explanation, and …

endorsed by a discipline or group of practitioners” (Achleitner, Information Transfer Definitions

handout). Knowledge creation is “externally-produced, empirically-grounded knowledge

through research and development or internally generated through research and development”

according to Achleitner; this definition fits studies based on Kuhlthau’s seminal research and

also derived research based on Eisenberg and Berkowitz’s Big6.


According to The New Oxford American Dictionary, dissemination means to “spread or

disperse (something, esp. information) widely…” (Jewell and Abate, 2001). “For example,

broadcast news is dissemination, as is newspaper publishing and Web sites that are available to

the public. The audience is of a general nature, and the acceptance of the information is

uncertain” (Greer, Grover, and Fowler, p. 22).

Knowledge dissemination is “The one-way spreading of information that helps the user

seek and acquire alternative sources of information and learn about options. Another level of
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dissemination is interactive and provides for a multidirectional flow of information into systems.

Dissemination systems supply information to reduce costly ignorance….” according to


Sending out the information can therefore be through multiple channels. Organizations

that are disseminators are professional organizations, libraries, book stores, Web sites, TV and

radio stations. The disseminating is done by librarians, reviewers, book store staff, Web

masters, TV and radio producers, and on-air staff (Greer, Grover, and Fowler, p. 123).

Owens (2001) wrote that “dissemination consists of …goal-oriented communication of

information or knowledge that is specific and potentially useable from one social system to

another” (p.1). However, he stressed the importance of knowing the audience/clients and that it

can be helpful to provide a partnership with others in the organization, in order to enhance the

knowledge transfer. He also stated that it was important to have strategies and to follow

through to help solve problems, in the dissemination stage.

Dissemination is a one-way spread of information; a traditional library, which acquires,

stores and allows access to information (Scullion, 2002) fits this definition. Scullion also

emphasized four key elements: the source, the message, the medium, and the specific target

audience. To use Scullions key elements in dissemination, Kuhlthau research (the source) was

sent out (disseminated) via the ISP (the message) through a number of carriers to the

information science professionals (specific target audience). Eisenberg and Berkowitz’s

observations (the source) which led to The Big6 (the message) were also sent out to school

library media teachers (specific target audience). Greer writes about copying the information or

reproducing the finished report or information so that it can be distributed, (p. 63). Professional

library journals publish the information, as well as it being posted on websites, printed in books
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and book reviews, and school library newsletters. Professional journals such as School Library

Media and School Library Journal disseminate monthly articles to library media teachers.

The Big6 process has been distributed through posters and bookmarks, worldwide. The

Big6 has its own website at A number of websites,

including Kuhlthau’s webpages at Rutgers, Princeton, New Jersey, at Both processes are being disseminated on other

academic websites, for example Humboldt University, Arcata, California, at


How is the new information organized and subsequently accessed? “Knowledge

organization is a systematic arranging of data, information, and knowledge to facilitate

identification, access and retrieval.” (Achleitner). Organizations that organize the knowledge

may include professional library organizations, publishing companies and government agencies;

the professional component is librarian indexers and subject heading specialists” (Greer, Grover

and Fowler, (2007). Greer writes that “specialized indexes and bibliographies” can be created to

provide access to the new knowledge in a discipline or profession.

Subject headings can be used for the new knowledge in a classifying or cataloging library

system. In the Library of Congress cataloging, Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st

Century is accessible at the call numbers of LB 1060 K84 2007, and in the Dewey Decimal

system, one can find it at 371.39. Information about ISP with a forward by Kuhlthau is in the

book Guided Research in Middle School: Mystery in the Media Center. This volume is found in

LOC systems at LB 1601.H37 2007 and in Dewey systems at 371.3. Eisenberg and Berkowitz’s

volume entitled The New Improved Big6 Workshop Handbook is found in LOC systems at

ZA3075.E4 1999, and in Dewey systems it’s found at 025.5.

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On the Internet, both Kuhlthau’s ISP and Eisenberg/Berkowitz’s Big6 is available by

searching on Google, a Google Scholar search or in the EBSCOhost Databases. These processes

are also available to read about on Wikipedia. .


It’s important for library teachers to teach the new knowledge and processes, once they

have learned them. Teaching students is diffusion. “The key to knowledge diffusion is learning

and learning is enhanced through the application of theories derived in educational psychology”

(Greer, Grover, and Fowler, p.27). Knowledge diffusion is sometimes accidental, the spreading

of knowledge, especially through contact; the exchange and multi-flow of knowledge. Diffusion

is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time

among members of a social system. Rogers five stage innovation diffusion model consists of

awareness, interest generation, and knowledge acquisition, attitude formation, trial decision,

adaption or rejection (Rogers, 1983).

Kuhlthau’s ISP and The Big6 Process have been diffused to specific audiences, already

socialized in teaching research and information gathering methods to students. Organizations

that diffuse the knowledge include schools, colleges and universities, churches, private

enterprise libraries, and social organizations. Professionals who do the diffusing may be faculty,

clergy, managers, librarians, teachers and information professionals. The audience for diffusion

of Kuhlthau and Berkowitz/Eisenberg’s models is the library media profession, librarians, and

higher education library information departments. They understand the vocabulary and theories

of the subject of teaching information searching; they are already experts.

Regarding diffusion, Kramer writes that the knowledge source is “credible, rigorous

evidence, compelling idea, and audience specific.” He also writes that “key ideas” are research

knowledge for transfer, with thematic messages being a summation of a significant body of
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research. Kuhlthau’s ISP process fits this description, as educators and librarians can remember

the ISP steps or key ideas better than without these summations. The Big6 is also a thematic

message that is easier to diffuse because the steps have been made succinct and clear.

The Big6 is frequently presented in seminars and at conventions, around the world.

Eisenberg and Berkowitz have presented at the American Association of School Librarians

(AASL) to the assembly of library teachers; they involve audience participation and present in a

rigorous, engaging fashion. The annual state library conferences and state library teacher

conferences frequently have workshops to diffuse the Big6 to teachers and librarians.

Websites can be an easily accessible means of diffusions information using Web

For example, Eisenberg moderates a Big6 Blog on the website, where there is also a

Big6 Forum to discuss the Big6 skills. On the website is information on workshops and

Webinars, and places to comment on the Big6 method on RSS feeds. The site encourages

feedback and communication from the audience. Kuhlthau’s process is taught at Rutgers

University, in the library science department.

Rogers writes about four main elements in diffusion (p.5,10): innovation, communication,

time and the social system. In innovation, new models are formed in the creative step.

Communication channels occur during oral presentations at conferences or groups specifically

working in the library field, or in journals. Time refers to how long for acquired knowledge to

be utilized. The last component, the social system, in which the ISP and Big6 processes would

be revealed would be in Library Information Systems, Masters of Library Science programs and

all scholarly forums. An example is panel discussions with Kuhlthau or Eisenberg/Berkowitz at

AASL conferences or American Library Association conferences.

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Knowledge utilization is a process which aims at increasing the employment of

knowledge to solve problems and improve the quality of organizational decision-making. Plans

and designs for implementation of the new knowledge are crucial. Kramer writes that utilization

is “the need to establish a positive relationship between the source of the knowledge and the user

organization to achieve knowledge utilization is an established principle of knowledge transfer.”

The process of utilization manifested in the Knowledge Broker in Kramer’s study was

“intensive, sustained, interactive engagement, as Kuhlthau, Eisenberg and Berkowitz have

demonstrated for twenty years and continue to do so. Greer (p.22) writes that “after individuals

or groups have adopted new knowledge and, after it has been diffused to them, the knowledge

may be put to use, or utilized. Knowledge that has been learned has been employed for some

benefit to the user or to the group. Information professionals exist for the purpose of converting

knowledge into practical advantage.”


Preservation is “The faithful storage and maintenance of documents to facilitate future

use,” according to Achleitner. The knowledge is preserved, captured, and made available via

libraries, archives and museums. Librarians, archivists, curators and their support staff serve as

preservers (Greer, Grover and Fowler, 2007, p. 123). The Big6 process and resultant studies are

available through books by Eisenberg/Berkowitz as well as other authors. Kuhlthau has also

written books that are available and continues to write. “Preservation is concerned with the

retention of recorded information for future audiences. Three aspects of preservation must be

considered: (1) preservation of the artifact or physical information package, e.g., book, journal,

etc.; (2) preservation of the content—the ideas; (3) the context of the work—it’s [sic] meaning at

the time of its writing or production (Greer, Grover, and Fowler, 2007).
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The process of Information Transfer, from creation to preservation, is the process of

creating, informing and transmitting a new message to be shared, used and made available for

retrieval as knowledge. Knowledge derived from these models continues to give scaffolding,

support and guidance to students searching for information. With the explosion of information

available today, the ISP model and The Big6 are timely and pertinent, but following the pattern

of knowledge spawning additional new knowledge, they will no doubt continue to expand and

evolve to meet the relevant needs of students in the future.

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Eisenberg, M.B., & Berkowitz, R.B. (1990). Information Problem-Solving: The Big Six Skills

approach to Library and Information Skills Instruction. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Gordon, C. (1999). Students As Authentic Researchers: A New Prescription for the High School

Research Assignment. American Library Association. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from


Greer, R. C., Grover, R. J., and Fowler, S. (2007). Introduction to the library and information

professions. Westport, CT : Libraries Unlimited.

Kramer, D. and Cole, D. (2003). Sustained, intensive engagement to promote health and safety

knowledge transfer to and utilization by workplaces. Science Communication. 5 (1), 56-


Kulthau, C. C. (1993). Seeking meaning. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information

services (2nd ed.). Westport, CT : Libraries Unlimited.

Owens, T. (2001). Dissemination: a key element of the ATE program. The Evaluation Center.

Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University.

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations. (5th ed.) New York: Free Press.

School Library Media Research (SLMR). American Library Association. Retrieved July 3,

2008, from

Scullion, P. A. (2002). Effective dissemination strategies. Nurse Researcher. 10(1), 65-68.

Shannon, Donna. “Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process.” School Library Media Activities

Monthly, Vol. 19, no. 2, October 2002: p. 19-23.

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Jewell, E. J. & Abate, F. (Eds.). (2001). The New Oxford American Dictionary.. New York,

NY : Oxford University Press.

Watson, J. S. (2003). Examining Perceptions of the Science Fair Project: Content or Process?

American Library Association. Retrieved July 9, 2008, from


Wolf, Brush, and Sara (2003, June). The Big Six information skills as a metacognative scaffold:

a case study. American Library Association. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from

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Anderson, Charles & Johnson (2003). The impressive psychology paper. Chicago: Lucerne


Smith, M. (2001). Writing a successful paper. The Trey Research Monthly, 53, 149-150.

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