Information behaviours in disadvantaged and dependent circumstances and the role of information intermediaries

Steven Buchanan, Cara Jardine, Ian Ruthven

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The first empirical study focused exclusively on the information intermediary role in disadvantaged (socioeconomic) and dependent (support) circumstances. We report findings from semi-structured interviews and focus groups with 49 UK state and voluntary sector professionals providing support to young (<21) mothers from areas of multiple deprivations. We evidence an important information intermediary role with three key contributions to information behaviours in disadvantaged and dependent circumstances. Intermediaries: facilitate information needs recognition, and considered purposeful action within problematic situations; are a key source of information in themselves, and a key integrative connection to other external sources not otherwise accessed; and tailor and personalise information for relevance, and communicate via incremental and recursive cycles that take into account learning needs. We provide parameters for a theory of information intermediary intervention to guide future examination of an important and understudied role; and conceptualise important theoretical relationships between information behaviour and social capital, and in particular shared concepts of social integration, and the progressive and integrative intermediary role within. Our findings have significant practical implications for public health policy and digital health strategies, as they evidence an important human information intermediary role amongst an at-risk group, with implications for disadvantaged and vulnerable populations more broadly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-129
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number2
Early online date16 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2019


  • information behavior
  • information poverty
  • information intermediary
  • information literacy
  • health literacy
  • social capital
  • mothers

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  • Projects


    The information needs of young first time mothers from areas of multiple deprivations

    Buchanan, S. (Creator), Ruthven, I. (Contributor), Jardine, C. (Contributor) & Nicol, E. (Creator), UK Data Service , 12 Mar 2019



    Understanding the Information Needs of Young First Time Mothers from Areas of Multiple Deprivation

    Steven Buchanan (Participant) & Ian Ruthven (Participant)

    Impact: Impact - for External PortalHealth and welfare - new products, guidelines and services, Professional practice, training and standards

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