Information Needs Analysis

Dec 2014 | 256pp

Price: £49.95
CILIP members price: £39.96

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Information Needs Analysis
Principles and practice in information organizations

Daniel G. Dorner, G. E. Gorman and Philip J. Calvert

If you want to provide an information service that truly fulfils your users' needs, this book is essential reading.

Analysing and assessing the information needs of clients is key to the provision of effective service and appropriate collections in both face-to-face and virtual library services. The importance of information needs analysis is widely recognized by information professionals, but currently there is little substantive, detailed work in the professional literature devoted to this important topic.

This new book is designed to fill that gap, by supporting practitioners in developing an information needs analysis strategy, and offering the necessary professional skills and techniques to do so. It will offer guidance to team leaders and senior managers in all areas of library work, especially those involved in collection management, service provision and web development, and is equally applicable to the needs of academic, public, government, commercial and other more specialized library and information services. The text adopts a hands-on, jargon-free approach, and includes relevant examples, case studies, reader activities and sources of further reading. Key areas covered include:

  • what is information needs analysis?
  • how is needs analysis conducted?
  • what are the varieties of needs analysis?
  • how are analyses evaluated and reported?  

Readership: The book will be essential reading for library and information practitioners, team leaders and senior managers. It will also be a core text on course reading lists in departments of library and information studies.

1. Background to needs analysis for information managers

  • Introduction
  • Information needs analysis rather than information needs assessment
  • Understanding the concept of need
  • Defining ‘needs’ in relation to ‘wants’ and ‘demands’
  • Defining information needs analysis
  • Types of information needs
  • Reasons for conducting an information needs analysis
  • Review of Chapter 1
  • Further reading
  • References  

2. The importance of context in information needs analysis

  • Introduction
  • The cultural context
  • Information needs awareness in context
  • Purpose and perceived importance
  • Determining the communities
  • Making use of existing data
  • Review of Chapter 2
  • Further reading
  • References  

3. Models and types of information needs analysis

  • Introduction
  • The literature
  • The system approach
  • The target group approach 
  • The contexts of needs assessments
  • Comparing the perspectives
  • Information needs analyses in information management contexts
  • Review of Chapter 3
  • Further reading
  • References  

4. The stages of information needs analysis

  • Introduction
  • Four stages of needs analysis
  • The recursive nature of INA research
  • Qualitative and quantitative frameworks for data analysis 
  • The stages of ex post intervention
  • Review of Chapter 4
  • Further reading
  • References
  • Appendix 4.1: Gantt chart  

5. Gathering data for information needs analyses

  • Introduction
  • How we have reached this juncture
  • The primary research question
  • The research population
  • The data-gathering method
  • Data analysis
  • Validity and reliability
  • Ethical considerations
  • Practical issues to consider when choosing a method
  • The main data-gathering methods
  • Examples of data-gathering methods selected in INAs  
  • Review of Chapter 5
  • Further reading
  • References

6. Gathering data from existing sources

  • Introduction
  • The data
  • External data
  • Internally created data
  • The methods
  • Conclusion
  • Review of Chapter 6
  • Further reading
  • References

7. Gathering data through surveys

  • Introduction
  • What is a survey?
  • Planning for a survey
  • Conducting a survey
  • Preparing for data analysis
  • Review of Chapter 7
  • Further reading
  • References  

8. Gathering data through interviews

  • Introduction
  • Thoughts on managing qualitative data collection
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Observation
  • Other qualitative methods
  • Review of Chapter 8
  • Further reading
  • References  

9. Analysing and integrating information needs analysis data

  • Introduction
  • Analysing and integrating information
  • The information analysis stage in the INA process
  • Qualitative data
  • Quantitative data
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Inferential statistics
  • Review of Chapter 9
  • Further reading
  • References  

10. Reporting on an information needs analysis

  • Introduction
  • The audience and its impact on the final report
  • Validity and reliability
  • The writing process
  • The structure of an INA report
  • The use of graphics
  • Other means of communicating the results
  • Review of Chapter 10
  • Further reading
  • References

"This very informative book provides an in-depth introduction to the theory and practice of information needs analysis (INA) in library and information organizations...I would recommend this book to all information professionals who conduct information needs analysis."
- Library and Information Research

"The style of the book is easy to follow, it is transparent and practical. The application of the presented methods and instruments should not be a complicated matter. For information managers in organizations this book will be very useful. It is also of the kind that most students appreciate very much: it provides unambiguous answers to potential questions and solutions to the problems that are commonly met at everyday work."
- Information Research

"The ten chapters are sensibly split into three parts. Chapters 1-4 discuss the theory behind INA. Chapters 5-8 relate to the research methods commonly used to gather data for analyses. Chapters 9-10 outline data analysis methods, and provide suggestions about how to report your INA findings. I liked the logic behind the structure of the book, which meant that I could race through the theory, and linger over the practical advice, thinking about how we can apply it to our library users...Each chapter is summarised by a Review, and further reading is provided, along with extensive references from a diverse array of recent sources."
- CILIP Health Libraries Group Newsletter 

Daniel G. Dorner is Senior Lecturer, G E Gorman is Professor of Library and Information Management and Philip J Calvert is Senior Lecturer at the School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

1. Background to needs analysis for information managers

Needs analysis, or information needs analysis (INA), is a practice-based activity conducted mostly, but not exclusively, by an information manager, usually in relation to user and community needs. Typically, such a person, or team of people, simply roll up their sleeves and get ‘stuck in’. Perhaps there has been a flurry of e-mail exchanges with others who have done a needs analysis, and some anecdotal evidence has been gathered about how to approach this activity. Unfortunately, needs analysis is, like any research, an activity that requires careful planning, including an understanding of precisely what needs analysis is.

In this opening chapter we address a number of preliminary questions which must be understood in order to have a good grasp of INA and the INA process. Specifically,

  • What is ‘needs analysis’ and how does it differ from ‘needs assessment’?
  • What are ‘needs’, and what is the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’?
  • How important are value judgements in identifying needs and solutions?
  • What are the various kinds of needs that might emerge in an information setting?
  • How do we identify needs in an information setting?  

2. The importance of context in information needs analysis

In this chapter, what we seek to do is extend the discussion of INA into the real-world context of culture, society and other key variables by addressing these questions:

  • What is the role of contexts, and especially cultural contexts, in information needs analysis?
  • Do people always recognize an information need when they have one?
  • How can individuals be grouped into communities with information needs?  

3. Models and types of information needs analysis 

In this chapter we identify different levels, models and types of needs analysis generally (as distinct from INA specifically) that are discussed in the literature across a variety of disciplines. The purpose of this is to distinguish key features and themes related to needs analysis models. We also examine the application of some of these models to information management (IM) contexts, and ultimately we draw upon the key elements of these models to develop our own models of INA.

The purpose of this chapter, in brief, is to address three questions:

  1. What are the levels of INA?
  2. How do we identify different models and types of INA?
  3. What contextual factors must be considered when undertaking INAs?  

4. The stages of information needs analysis

In an information setting the needs analysis process should be seen as contributing to two essential activities in the proactive management of services, facilities and staff. First, the process should help determine what needs exist and how they might best be met. Second, the process should provide benchmark criteria for evaluating the merits of whatever is being investigated (systems, buildings, staff, services, collections) to determine the extent to which the specified needs are being met. 

It is against the background of these activities that we set out to address three main questions in this chapter:

  1. What are the principal stages of information needs analysis?
  2. What are the main activities in each of these stages?
  3. How are these activities interrelated?  

5. Gathering data for information needs analyses

This chapter provides an overview of the main methods for gathering the data necessary to identify and understand information needs in different information management contexts. As is the case in any research project, the method(s) selected in an INA project will depend on a wide range of contextual variables. Accordingly, in this chapter we seek answers to a number of data-gathering questions, specifically:

  • How is the choice of data collection method related to the purpose of the INA?
  • What factors should be considered when choosing a data-gathering method?
  • How will existing data be used?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of surveys in needs analysis?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of interviews in needs analysis?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of focus groups in needs analysis?
  • What other methods can be used?  

6. Gathering data from existing sources

This chapter provides guidance on using existing data in information needs analyses and addresses three key questions:

  1. What are the most common types of existing data used in INAs?
  2. What is the best practice for identifying sources of existing data for collection?
  3. What different methods can be used for analysing existing data? 

7. Gathering data through surveys

Chapter 5 introduced several methods for gathering data for information needs analyses (INAs). Following that introductory chapter, Chapter 6 then began the in-depth discussion of methods by addressing the use of existing, or historical, data. Chapter 7 now continues the in-depth discussion by focusing on the survey, a quantitative data-gathering tool frequently used in INAs and addresses three principal questions:

  1. Most basically, what is a survey, and how do surveys fit into INA?
  2. What are the planning procedures for conducting a survey?
  3. How do we conduct a survey?  

8. Gathering data through interviews

In Chapter 5 we provided an overview of the main methods for gathering the data required for an INA in different information management contexts. In this chapter we look specifically at the use of individuals and groups as a source of data in INAs. 

The main questions driving this chapter are:

  • What is the value of gathering data from individuals in an INA?
  • What are the main methods of qualitative data collection?
  • How do focus groups function?
  • What are the uses of observation in data gathering?  

9. Analysing and integrating information needs analysis data

In this chapter we focus on the analysis and integration of data that have been gathered to identify and make decisions about the information needs being investigated. In an INA project the analysis and integration of data occur not only towards the end of the project but also must be done to varying degrees throughout the project and for different purposes at different times. 

In Chapter 4 we identified the four stages of INA projects: (1) preparation, (2) information gathering, (3) information analysis and (4) reporting results. As explained below, the INA process is not strictly a linear one. It is iterative, and so the information analysis stage may occur several times during a larger INA project, requiring the INA project team to integrate several types of data. 

In this chapter we examine when and how to analyse the information collected to determine the needs of the target group, bearing in mind that the project might involve several iterations of the various stages. We look at both qualitative and quantitative types of data, and the processes used to analyse them. The extent of an analysis will depend on why the information was gathered, with analyses conducted during Stage 2 usually requiring more detail than those conducted during Stage 1 of an INA. Regardless of the stage at which data analysis is being undertaken, any issues that might affect the validity and reliability of the results must be considered. 

10.  Reporting on an information needs analysis

We are now at the end of the process, both figuratively and literally. In this final chapter of the book we examine the last stage of an information needs analysis (INA) process – reporting the results.

To help focus our thinking in the somewhat complex and varied matter of reporting on an INA, this chapter addresses five questions:

  1. For whom is the INA being reported? That is, what is the audience?
  2. What is the process for writing an INA report?
  3. How is a typical INA report structured?
  4. How can graphics and other visuals be employed to good effect?
  5. How else might INA results be presented?