Kuhlthau’s 6 Stages of the Information Process

1. Initiation Stage

    • Task

Preparation for the topic selection

    • Ideas

Pondering the assignment
Understanding the task
Research of prior experiences
Learning of prior experiences
Consideration of possible topics to use

    • Feelings

Anxiety for work that awaits
Uneasiness

    • Actions

Discussing the task with others
Browsing and researching the Library

    • Strategies

Debating and discussing
Brainstorming the strategies and information
Comparison of possible topics
Tolerance and acceptance

2. Selecting the Topic

    • Task

Selecting the topic for research

    • Ideas

Comparing previously selected topics and weighing them against various criteria
Using criteria of allotted time, available information, project requirements and personal interest
Outcome prediction of different topic choices and actions
Pinpointing the topic that has highest potential for success

    • Feelings

Sometimes concern
Discomfort
Minor euphoria when the topic is selected
Anticipation of the next stage and task

    • Actions

Discussing the choice with mediators
Performing a preliminary library research
Using the collection of reliable references

    • Strategies

Weighing possible topics
Envisioning the outcome of the top choice
Predicting the outcomes of all choices
Performing a general overview of the possible topics

3. Prefocus Research

    • Task

Explore and investigate with the goal of finding a focus

    • Ideas

Getting some information on the chosen general topic
Finding a focus based on information on the general topic
Selecting several ideas for a focus
Lack of ideas how to express the necessary information

    • Feelings

Disorganization
Hesitation
Sometimes fear
Concern

    • Actions

Finding information sources
Reading for more information
Note taking
Writing down citation for a bibliography

    • Strategies

Reading about the selected topic
Acceptance of inconsistency of the information on hand
Handling incompatibility of information
Seeking a possible focus intentionally
Listing possible descriptors

4. Formulating the Focus

    • Task

Formulate the focus based on research and gathered information

    • Ideas

Anticipating the results and outcomes of the possible focus
Using criteria of allotted time, available information, project requirements and personal interest
Pinpointing and researching the ideas with the goal to formulate the focus
Unexpected ideas and insights

    • Feelings

Elation
Certainty in the ability for finishing the task

    • Actions

Reading and researching the themes and notes

    • Strategies

Creating a survey out of the notes
Listing possible focus choices
Selecting one focus and eliminating others, or
Using one focus, but several themes

5. Seeking Information

    • Task

Selecting information that supports, broadens and describes the selected focus

    • Ideas

Collecting information that supports the focus
Explaining and broadening the focus through research and selected information
Selecting applicable information
Using notes for information organization

    • Feelings

Understanding the scope of work that needs to be done
Determination and certainty in the ability to finish the task
Increase of interest in completing the task

    • Actions

Using relevant library information
Seeking specific information and sources from library
Note taking
Writing down bibliographic citations

    • Strategies

Detecting reliable information with the help of descriptors
Researching different materials such as reference, nonfiction, periodicals and biographies
Use of indexes
Asking a librarian for guidance and help

6. Finalizing the Search

    • Task

Finalizing the information search

    • Ideas

Determine if additional information are needed
Taking the time limit into consideration
Decreasing relevance
Increasing redundancy
Using all identified sources

    • Feelings

Sense of comfort
Sometimes fulfillment
Sometimes failure

    • Actions

Checking all information and sources that may have been overlooked initially
Confirming the citations for bibliography and all other information

    • Strategies

Performing a summary search in the library
Using found sources and books until the finalization of the task with the goal of rechecking the information if necessary.

Carol Kuhlthau created this model for the information science. Being a high school librarian, Kuhlthau noticed a similar behavior among students who started working on a research paper. This behavior was similar to all students regardless of their library visits.
To explore this further, she used George Kelly’s construct theory and John Dewey ‘s educational philosophy. Her research resulted in one of the most popular models of information processes.
Kuhlthau’s model is based on six stages, all separated into task, feelings, actions, and strategies.

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