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Kuhlthau's Model of the Stages of the Information Process

Stage 1 -- Task Initiation 
Task Thoughts Feelings Actions Strategies
To prepare for the decision of selecting a topic

Contemplating assignment

Comprehending Task
Relating prior experience and learning

Considering possible topics

Apprehension at work ahead


Talking with others

Browsing the Library



Contemplating possible topics

Tolerating uncertainty

Stage 2 -- Topic Selection
Task Thoughts Feelings Actions Strategies
To decide on topic for

Weighing topics against criteria of personal interest, project requirements, information available, and time allotted

Predicting outcome of possible choices

Choosing topic with potential for success


Sometimes Anxiety

Brief elation after selection

Anticipation of prospective task

Consulting with informal mediators

Making preliminary search of library

Using reference collection

Discussing possible topics

Predicting outcome of choices

Using general sources for overview of possible topics

Stage 3 -- Prefocus Exploration
Task Thoughts Feelings Actions Strategies
To investigate information with the intent of finding a focus

Becoming informed about general topic

Seeking focus in information on general topic

Identifying several possible focuses

Inability to express precise information needed



Sometimes threat


Locating relevant information

Reading to become informed

Taking notes on facts and ideas

Making bibliographic citations

Reading to learn about topic

Tolerating inconsistency and incompatibility of information encountered

Intentionally seeking possible focuses

Listing descriptors

Stage 4 -- Focus Formulation
Task Thoughts Feelings Actions Strategies
To formulate a focus from the information encountered

Predicting outcome of possible foci

Using criteria of personal interest, requirements of assignment, availability of materials, and time allotted

Identifying ideas in information from which to formulate focus

Sometimes characterized by a sudden moment of insight


Confidence in ability to complete task

Reading notes for themes

Making a survey of notes

Listing possible foci

Choosing a particular focus while discarding others, or

Combining several themes to form one focus

Stage 5 -- Information Collection
Task Thoughts Feelings Actions Strategies
To gather information that defines, extends and supports the focus

Seeking information to support focus

Defining and extending focus through information

Gathering pertinent information

Organizing information in notes

Realization of extensive work to be done

Confidence in ability to complete task

Increased interest

Using library collect pertinent information

Requesting specific sources from librarian

Taking detailed notes with bibliographic citations

Using descriptors to search out pertinent information

Making comprehensive search of various types of materials, i.e., reference, periodicals, nonfiction, and biography

Using indexes

Requesting assistance of librarian

Stage 6 -- Search Closure 
Task Thoughts Feelings Actions Strategies
To conclude search for information

Identifying need for any additional information

Considering time limit
Diminishing relevance

Increasing redundancy

Exhausting resources

Sense of relief

Sometimes satisfaction

Sometimes disappointment

Rechecking sources for information initially overlooked

Confirming information and bibliographic citations

Returning to library to make summary search

Keeping books until completion of writing to recheck information

Kuhlthau, Carol C. Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex Publishing Corp., 1993, pp.45-51 [Used with permission of the Author]

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