Beyond quality and accessibility: Source selection in consumer health information searching
Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
A systematic understanding of factors and criteria that affect consumers' selection of sources for health information is necessary for the design of effective health information services and information systems. However, current studies have overly focused on source attributes as indicators for 2 criteria, source quality and accessibility, and overlooked the role of other factors and criteria that help determine source selection. To fill this gap, guided by decision-making theories and the
... tive perspective to information search, we interviewed 30 participants about their reasons for using a wide range of sources for health information. Additionally, we asked each of them to report a critical incident in which sources were selected to fulfill a specific information need. Based on the analysis of the transcripts, 5 categories of factors were identified as influential to source selection: source-related factors, user-related factors, user-source relationships, characteristics of the problematic situation, and social influences. In addition, about a dozen criteria that mediate the influence of the factors on source-selection decisions were identified, including accessibility, quality, usability, interactivity, relevance, usefulness, familiarity, affection, anonymity, and appropriateness. These results significantly expanded the current understanding of the nature of costs and benefits involved in source-selection decisions, and strongly indicated that a personalized approach is needed for information services and information systems to provide effective access to health information sources for consumers.