Experiencing information across the phenomenon of health information literacy

Yates, Christine, Partridge, Helen L., & Bruce, Christine S. (2013) Experiencing information across the phenomenon of health information literacy. In Kurbanoğlu, Serap, Grassian, Esther, Mizrachi, Diane, Catts, Ralph, Akça, Sümeyye, & Špiranec, Sonja (Eds.) Proceedings of the European Conference on Information Literacy (ECIL 2013), Hacettepe University Department of Information Management, Istanbul, Turkey.


Interest in the concept of information literacy in different contexts is a topic that has steadily gained increased attention in information literacy discourse and research efforts over recent years. In particular the emergence of the term ‘health information literacy’ attests to this interest and has elevated awareness about the importance and relevance of information literacy in a health context. This paper reports on research that has taken a relational perspective to explore how people experience health information literacy. Initially established by Bruce (1997) the relational perspective draws from an experiential framework that emphasizes the relationship between users and information when learning in different contexts. This approach seeks outcomes that are deeply embedded in users’ informational life worlds and complements experiential phenomenological perspectives that have been used in health research. In keeping with the relational approach this research interprets health information literacy as being the different ways in which people experience using information to learn about health.

Using interpretive phenomenography, this research explored variation in the lived experience of how people use information to learn about their health, and variation in what is constituted as information when learning about their health. Participants included 23 males and females aged between 45 and 64 years. All participants were residents from the Greater Brisbane area of Queensland, Australia. The research used semi-structured interviews for data collection. The types of questions posed during interviews included ‘Can you describe a time when you used information to learn about your health?’ and ‘What kinds of information have you used to learn about your health?’.

This paper will focus on presenting one element of research findings that concerns the differences in ‘what’ participants experienced as information. Analysis of interview data identified significant variation in the experienced nature of information, specifically the different qualities or elements that comprised the ‘object’ of information, or in other words, what was perceived as ‘informing’. Illustrations of this variation include information experienced as traditional information sources, facts and experiences, something exhibiting particular qualities, physical or psychological changes, other people and role models. These findings provide new insights into what people may experience as information, and build upon existing literature regarding information as a theoretical construct. In addition the potential implications of these findings with respect to the design and delivery of health information literacy education will also be discussed.

These research findings contribute to the emergence of information literacy investigations in everyday life and community. Although such settings have long been identified as a significant gap for exploration, research to date in this field has predominantly focused on educational and workplace environments. In this way the knowledge gained from this research has further revealed the contextual nature of information literacy, as well as its complexity as a phenomenon and focus of study.

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ID Code: 64627
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Health information literacy, Experience, Phenomenography, Learning
ISBN: 9789754913590
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES (080000) > INFORMATION SYSTEMS (080600)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Information Systems
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Hacettepe University Department of Information Management and authors
Deposited On: 23 Dec 2013 00:32
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2015 23:25

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