Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Berlin School of Library and Information Science


The Information Behavior research and teaching group studies the various interactions between Humans, Information and Technology. More specifically, it analyses the use of and search for information in different contexts. This includes both active and passive behavior. Examples of research areas: Information avoidance, serendipity, personal information management and information literacy.

When Information Behavior started being researched around the 1950s, the focus was merely on academics. Nowadays, the center of research activity in the field is the user with his/her motivation and needs. A variety of methods, as well as models and theories has been established that aims to explain the search actions and information needs of users.



Research projects

The development of methodological standards (Prof. Greifeneder)

The development of methodological standards is a leitmotiv for Prof. Greifeneder’s research. Few researchers in LIS focus their research on methodological issues, because it requires deep knowledge of various methods – from statistical to qualitative approaches, from usability and eye tracking studies to focus groups – plus a keen interest in continuously monitoring new methods. It also often means walking on thin ice: finding an appropriate balance between studying validity and exposing situations where the research settings or the outputs in our field are not valid or risk having limited validity. Studying methods includes observing, questioning and validating indicators that have been used to study specific phenomena (for example, low completion time as an indicator of task difficulty). It also includes cases where the meaning of the indicators might have changed in new research contexts. The development of methodological standards is an essential topic for the long term scholarly value of results in our field.


Information behavior and the digital transformation (Prof. Greifeneder)

Information behavior examines how humans interact with information technology. Among other questions, the research examines why people avoid information, which patterns people use to collect and evaluate information, and also how people manage their own personal data. How humans react to and deal with the digital transformation is one of the core questions of this professor position. Two major characteristics of the digital transformation are highly personalized services and ubiquitous information use. This means that when people interact with technology, their use‐context is very different each time they use a service (ubiquity), and very different between one user and another (personalization). Therefore understanding people’s information behavior during this digital transformation requires methodological approaches that explicitly take people’s context into account. It also means that we have to rethink the validity of the data that we have collected (i.e. have we measured and captured data that represent what we intended to examine, or have we just collected data that were accessible, but do not represent the situation under examination) and the ways that we analyze those data (i.e. what is a pattern in a ubiquitous personalized information use situation?).


Digital information behavior of young children (Dr. Kirsten Schlebbe)

The project examines how preschool children and their families interact with digital and especially mobile technologies and provides an insight into the digital everyday information behavior of this user group. The aim of the project is also to include the children's perspective more strongly in information behavior research. Following an explorative study in 2017, a further study with a multi-method research approach is planned for the period 2019-2020. In 2018, Kirsten Schlebbe presented her research activities at the doctoral colloquium of the iConference and at the LIDA conference. She also discussed her ideas with other young scientists at the second DigiLitEY Training School in Madrid in spring 2017. Kirsten's other areas of interest include qualitative research methods in general as well as various methodical and ethical aspects of conducting research with children and families.


User Experience Methodology research with Senior Citizens (Vera Hillebrand, M.A)

The methods of user experience research are aimed at physically unimpaired people. The proportion of older people who want to use technical devices and applications will increase. The aim of the project is to change already known methods and to develop new methods to enable research with older, physically handicapped people.


Health information behavior and digital well-being of vulnerable groups (Leyla Dewitz, M.A.)

Digital Well-being is considered a practice and state of social, physiological, and psychological well-being in the use of technology. It is a dynamic state of experience that people can achieve in their relationship with technology; where skills of resilience and self-regulation play a role in the technology-human relationship. The project empirically investigates, using theoretical and qualitative research approaches, the relationships between health information behavior and people's subjective digital well-being. The goal is to obtain evidence on the extent to which the emotional-subjective experience of interacting with technologies impacts how people seek, find, experience, evaluate, and avoid health information, for example. The project focuses on different use cases that map specific vulnerable groups in terms of thematic focus. Currently, a study is being conducted on the health information behavior and digital well-being of people with social anxiety disorder. Methodologically, this study is based on an explorative-qualitative study design and incorporates interactive-participative approaches.


Information Behavior of young adults with life-threatening diseases (Paulina Bressel, M.A.)

Receiving a diagnosis of a life-threatening disease has a major impact on the lives of those affected. New information, service and care needs arise in different areas of life that influence the health information behavior. Although anyone can be affected, one target group is often neglected in research: young adults with life-threatening diseases. While the medical and psychological research field is considering this target group more often by referring to information science models, there is a lack of differentiation in Library and Information Science. For this reason, the aim of this project is to study the health information behavior of young adults with life-threatening diseases (as cancer and eating disorders), by focusing on information needs and various forms of behavior (e.g. information seeking and sharing) and by using different methods (e.g. social media analysis, qualitative interviews).