Collaborative information seeking: A field study of a multidisciplinary patient care team

Madhu C. Reddy*, Patricia Ruma Spence

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


Multidisciplinary teams are an essential aspect of modern organizational work. These teams often work in information-rich environments but little is known about their collaborative information seeking (CIS) behavior. We have been studying the CIS behavior of teams in the context of medical care. We conducted an ethnographic field study of a multidisciplinary patient care team in an emergency department to identify (a) team information needs and (b) situations that trigger collaborative information seeking activities. We identified seven categories of information needs as expressed by questions asked by team members. The majority of questions focused on medical information, but there were a larger than expected percentage of questions focusing on organizational information. We also identified three triggers for CIS activities. These triggers are: (1) lack of expertise, (2) lack of immediately accessible information, and (3) complex information needs. The questions and triggers highlight the importance of face-to-face communication during CIS activities and how CIS activities could lead to interruptive workplaces. We also discuss organizational and technical implications for supporting CIS behavior of teams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-255
Number of pages14
JournalInformation Processing and Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Collaborative information seeking
  • Field study
  • Healthcare
  • Multidisciplinary teams

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Media Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Library and Information Sciences


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