Task complexity, information types and information sources : examination of relationships
Byström, Katriina (1999)
Tampere University Press
Informaatiotutkimus - Information Studies
In this study, the effects of perceived task complexity on the relationship between information types and information sources were examined. The information activities focused on were seen as a sub-process in task performance process. The information types to be acquired were expected to determine types of information sources used. Further, the perceived complexity of task was expected to determine what types of information were needed. This was considered in a real life work setting where the observation units were the actual work tasks of municipal administrators in two Finnish towns. By concentrating the analysis on the individual work tasks, the action-centred orientation was emphasised with the understanding that both individual as well as social aspects place constrains on these processes. The main research data consisted of 80 task diaries recorded by 39 participants. This material was supplemented through subsequent interviews. Additional background data were collected by unstructured observations, document review and by an e-mail questionnaire. The data were analysed according to a process-analysis method that focuses on the identification of different aspects of task performance, their classification and finally their cross-tabulation. Both qualitative and quantitative techniques were utilised in the data collection and the analysis. The statistical significance of the findings was not tested. The research results show that there is a clear relationship between information types needed and information sources used, and that the effects of task complexity are mainly related to the need for information types during task performance. However, there are also indications that task complexity leads to a preference for people as information sources, especially general-purpose sources such as experts and meetings. Contrary to expectations task complexity or the need for multiple information types was not related to the increase in external information source use generally. However, the growing task complexity especially seems to increase the use of people inside the organisation and to decrease the use of internal documentary sources. The increase of information source use was almost linear when more information types had to be acquired. The number of information sources used also increased in relation to task complexity, but much less steadily. The study elaborated the relationships between task complexity and information source types by introducing information types into the analysis. The findings of this and earlier studies by the present author indicate that there are common information related patterns of how perceived work task complexity is coped with. Additional studies are needed to further clarify these patterns.
- Väitöskirjat