Information in dentistry : patterns of communication and use
The aim of the present study is to develop an explanation of the information seeking behaviour of dental professionals that relates the three main instances of this behaviour (users, their information needs, use of information sources) in a meaningful way. The research looks into the information-seeking behaviour of one of the less investigated groups of health practitioners and it does so from a qualitative point of view, using data collected by means of semi-structured interviews. 110 dental professionals were interviewed between May 1989 and June 1990. The interviewees were dental professionals in Sheffield District Health Authority (postgraduate students; academic staff; community service dentists; hospital staff and general dental practitioners). A coding paradigm based on grounded theory was applied to analyze their replies. This basic paradigm explains the information-seeking behaviour of dental professionals in terms of 'conditions' that provoke seeking information; 'strategies' implemented to seek information; 'interactions' the ways in which information sources are used. The conditions for their information needs are created by their clinical tasks (diagnosis, treatment and delivery of dentistry) or their academic tasks (teaching and lecturing, research and publications). Dental professionals apply six basic strategies for seeking information: Reading, Talking, Enquiring, Attending/organizing continuing education events, Watching and Using the library. Each of these strategies is associated with the use of certain information sources: Reading with written/printed literature, Talking with colleagues, Enquiring with individuals from other occupations or professions, Attending... with courses and conferences, Watching with audiovisual materials and Using the library with the use of printed literature via a library service. While the strategies are common to every subgroup in the study, the actual patterns of information-seeking vary from subgroup to subgroup because the strategies are implemented in different ways by each of them. The reason for this variation is determined by the particular combination of clinical and academic tasks of each subgroup. The findings - apart from describing how a representative group of dental professionals uses a variety of information sources - have several implications for library and information services, computer applications, dental training and further research in health care user studies.