Networked information resource use as planned behaviour in context: a reflection on the role of definition and measurement in quantitative user studies
Klobas, J.E. (1999) Networked information resource use as planned behaviour in context: a reflection on the role of definition and measurement in quantitative user studies. In: ASIS 1999 Mid-Year Meeting: Evaluating and Using Networked INformation Resources and Services, 24 - 26 May 1999, Pasadena, California.
Researchers in several fields have proposed theories that may be used to explain discretionary use of networked information resources (NIRs). Cost-benefit theories in library and information science suggest that people act to minimize effort; they use information resources that are accessible and easy to use. If we act on these theories, we will invest in the usability of web sites, intranets, and
other NIRs. By contrast, cost-benefit theories of information technology use suggest that people will
overcome barriers associated with difficult to use interfaces if the perceived usefulness of the technology is high. If we act on these theories, we will accept some imperfections in an NIR's human-computer interface in exchange for access to information resources that contribute to finding useful information and to getting work done well. A quite different approach is taken in models of communication system use which suggest that differences in use reflect differences in task, technology, and individual characteristics such as confidence in use, as well as differences in the social influences of others.
This paper explores reasons for such a range of possible explanations of networked information resource use by examining the validity of quantitative user studies. This approach may seem surprising at a time when many fields are adopting interpretive theories and qualitative research methodologies to deal with the apparent failure of quantitative research, yet this review shows that attention to sound quantitative methods can improve our understanding of factors associated with networked information resource use.
Research on campus wide information system (CWIS) use in Australian universities, conducted within the framework of an established social psychological model of human behavior (the theory of planned behavior, Ajzen, 1991) is used to demonstrate how attention to theory building, modeling
and measurement can be used to synthesise the diverse findings of research conducted both within and across different information fields. A "planned behaviour in context" model of networked information resource use, which incorporates the social and technical context of use, potential users' perceptions of NIR characteristics (including information quality and interface usability), and
potential users' attitudes to the outcomes of use is proposed as a model which may contribute to an
understanding of the "social informatics" of networked information resource use. This discussion will be illustrated by models of CWIS use drawn from several theories of information use, analysis of common concepts (such as perceived information quality and perceived ease of use) and their definitions, items that have been used to measure factors in the models, and discussion of the metric properties of items and scales that may be used to measure factors associated with use of CWIS and other intranets and NIRs.
Rather than dismissing quantitative research on the basis of a poor research tradition, the analysis presented here shows that close attention to theory building, modeling of user behaviour, and research methods (both qualitative and quantitative) can provide a good understanding of why
people use networked information resources. This understanding can, in turn, show how malleable
networked information resource characteristics, such as usability and information quality, are associated with networked information resource.
Allen, T. J. (1977).Managing the flow of technology: Technology transfer and the dissemination of technological information within the R&D organization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211.
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