This morning I awoke to yet another intriguing email from my library school listserv, one that at times seems oh-too-prolific… (if only because the emails send me off on internet tangents which are informative but hardly productive to the task at hand, whatever it may be.) But of course, they can be quite productive when it comes to food for thought for this blog. Today’s email was a case in point, as it directed me to the latest issue of the online journal Information Research.

As I peruse this journal over my morning tea, several articles and thoughts leap out at me and cause a gleam of interest to form in my sleep-glazed eyes. One is the editorial, which, along with introducing us to the contents of this issue, makes a good case for not using the PDF format for documents which are intended to be read onscreen instead of printed out. Hmm… food for thought, especially as I have a class this year in which I hand in most assignments in digital format rather than paper format.

But the article that’s really catching my eye is called What is browsing— really? and is by Marcia J. Bates from UCLA’s Department of Information Studies. In this article (see citation below if interested) Bates analyzes and discusses several different definitions of browsing, deconstructing them and states why certain elements of these definitions, while they work, need to be further refined to best describe what happens when someone browses vs. scans their environment. She also differentiates between “berrypicking” and browsing…

As I’m just dipping my toe into this type of literature, and it was rather early in the morning for me to read an article heavily based on social science research, I found it a bit dry, but definitely something I want to file away as research to come back to for future library school papers!

In the end, here is Bates’ definition of browing:

Browsing is seen to consist of a series of four steps, iterated indefinitely until the end of a browsing episode: 1) glimpsing a field of vision, 2) selecting or sampling a physical or informational object within the field of vision, 3) examining the object, 4) acquiring the object (conceptually and/or physically) or abandoning it. Not all of these elements need be present in every browsing episode, though multiple glimpses are seen to be the minimum to constitute the act. (from Abstract of article)

Bates, Marcia J. (2007). “What is browsing—really? A model drawing from behavioural science research” Information Research, 12(4) paper 330. [Available at]