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Modelling the information seeking and searching behaviour of users with impairments: Are existing models applicable?

Berget, G., MacFarlane, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-8057-0737 & Pharo, N. (2021). Modelling the information seeking and searching behaviour of users with impairments: Are existing models applicable?. Journal of Documentation, 77(2), pp. 381-400. doi: 10.1108/jd-04-2020-0049


A substantial number of models have been developed over the years, with the purpose of describing the information seeking and searching of people in various user groups and contexts. Several models have been frequently applied in user studies, but are rarely included in research on participants with impairments. Models are purposeful when developing theories. Consequently, it might be valuable to apply models when studying this user group, as well. The purpose of this study was to explore whether existing models are applicable in describing the online information seeking and searching of users with impairments, with an overall aim to increase the use of models in studies involving impairments.

Six models were selected according to the following criteria: the model should address information seeking or searching, include the interaction between users and systems whilst incorporate assistive technology. Two user groups were selected from each of the categories cognitive, sensory and motor impairments, namely dyslexia, autism, blindness, deafness, paralysation and Parkinson’s. The models were then analysed based on known barriers reported for these cohorts.

All the selected models had potential to be applied in user studies involving impairments. While three of the models had the highest potential to be used in the current form, the other three models were applicable either through minor revisions or by combining models.

This study contributes with a new perspective on the use of models in information seeking and searching research on users with impairments.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact
Publisher Keywords: Information seeking, information searching, user models, users with impairments
Subjects: Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Library & Information Science
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of modelling_impairments_PUBLISHED.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

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