The Theory Development within the Information Sciences workshop was held on October 15, 2016, at the ASIS&T Annual Meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark. The two main goals of the theory development workshop were to understand stages of theory development and discuss solutions to common challenges in the field, and to gauge the interests of the participants on theory development strategies. Diane Sonnenwald gave an overview on theory development based on her own experiences, Sam Chu talked about theory development applied to inquiry project-based learning, Mei-Mei Wu discussed multi methodologies in information retrieval and ShanJu Lin Chang touched on theory development processes in research on browsing phenomena. The workshop’s second half was a roundtable discussion that involved participants discussing challenges in the field and receiving feedback from the presenters.
Theory Development Within the Information Sciences
by Sam Chu, Diane H. Sonnenwald, Mei-Mei Wu and ShanJu Lin Chang
Theory Development within the Information Sciences, a workshop held at the 2016 ASIS&T Annual Meeting in Copenhagen, was organized and facilitated by Mei-Mei Wu, Diane H. Sonnenwald, ShanJu Lin Chang and Sam Chu. They were joined by a group of nine academics and students for the afternoon workshop whose goals included the following:
- Increase our understanding of stages of theory development and provide examples of challenges and potential ways to address the challenges.
- Explore challenges and strategies with respect to developing theories of interest to participants.
The half-day workshop consisted of two parts: facilitator and participant presentations and roundtable sharing. The organizers gave presentations based on their own experiences on theory/model development. Diane opened the workshop with an overview on theory development based on her synthesis of theory development experiences across the information sciences . This was followed by three presentations on theory development in each facilitator’s area of interest: Sam on theory development in information literacy and inquiry project-based learning ; Mei-Mei on the use of multi methodologies in searching elicitation phenomena in information retrieval ; and ShanJu on theory development processes through conducting research on browsing phenomena . Diane, Sam, Mei-Mei and ShanJu also shared two things that they now know about theory development that they wished they had known earlier in their careers. Next, several participants presented their ongoing efforts with respect to theory development.
In the second part of the workshop, the group engaged in a roundtable discussion facilitated by Sam. Participants shared their challenges and questions regarding theory development, and they received feedback from the presenters and fellow participants.
Workshop feedback indicated that participants appreciated the opportunity to explore the theory development process and would appreciate having focused discussions with colleagues in future workshops. These were among the participants’ comments:
I really liked the presentations…Diane’s [presentation]… could have been much longer.
[This was] a very informative and interactive workshop…[it provided] very useful advice.
Problems raised are ones I have been thinking about…[it’s] nice to know I’m not alone.
Resources Mentioned in the Article
 Sonnenwald, D. H. (2016). Exploring theory development: Learning from diverse masters. In D. H. Sonnenwald (Ed.), Theory Development in the Information Sciences (pp.1-18). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
 Chu, S. K. W. (2009). Inquiry project-based learning with a partnership of three types of teachers and the school librarian. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60(8), 1671-1686.
 Wu, M-M. (2005). Elicitation as micro level information seeking. In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & E. F. MaKechnie (Eds.), Theories of Information Behavior (pp. 133-137). Medford, NJ: Information Today.
 Chang, S. L. (2016). Reflections on theory construction in human information behavior: A theory of browsing. In D. H. Sonnenwald (Ed.), Theory Development in the Information Sciences (pp. 50-67). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
Samuel K. W. Chu is associate professor and deputy director, Centre for Information Technology in the Education Division of Information and Technology Studies, University of Hong Kong. He can be reached at samchu<at>hku.hk
Diane H. Sonnenwald is a past president of ASIS&T. She is professor and chair of information and library studies at University College Dublin (UCD) in Dublin, Ireland. She can be reached at Diane.Sonnenwald<at>gmail.com
Mei-Mei Wu is professor and chair of the Graduate Institute of Library & Information Studies at National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan. She can be reached at meiwu<at>ntnu.edu.tw
ShanJu Lin Chang is professor of library and information sciences at National Taiwan University. She can be reached at sjlin<at>ntu.edu.tw