Intermediary's information seeking, inquiring minds, and elicitation styles

Mei Mei Wu*, Ying Hsang Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The current research explores how intermediaries seek information from patrons, in particular by analyzing intermediaries' elicitation utterances through three dimensions-linguistic forms, utterance purposes, and communicative functions-to determine whether indeed any dimension appeared consistently, to be called "elicitation styles." Five intermediaries from four academic libraries (three national university libraries, one private university library) and one research institute library participated in the study. Thirty patrons with 30 genuine search requests were recruited; thus, 30 patron/intermediary information retrieval interactions making a total of 30 encounters were collected. Video/audio data were taped. Dialogues between patron and intermediary were transcribed. Statistical analysis revealed three types of elicitation styles among the five intermediaries, labeled (1) situationally oriented, (2) functionally oriented, and (3) stereotyped. This study seeks an explanation for different elicitation styles. Qualitative analysis was applied to investigate "inquiring minds." An inquiring mind is termed to represent a mentality or tendency that one elicits certain threads of questions influenced by professional beliefs, individual characteristics, tasks, goals, and interactional contexts in conversation. The results of qualitative analysis specified three modes of inquiring minds of the intermediaries, namely: (1) information problem detection, (2) query formulation process, and (3) database instructions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1117-1133
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Oct

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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