Domain Analysis: Assumptions and New Techniques for Articulating Domains (panel)

Monday, June 27, 2016 - 08:30 to Wednesday, June 29, 2016 - 18:00

Presentation at a panel together with Eva Hourihan Jansen (moderator), Jenna Hartel, Birger Hjørland and Sanna Talja at CoLIS9 conference.


Domain analysis is a stalwart approach to research in Library and Information Science. Its basic premise is that studying relationships between people and information ought to be approached from a social perspective – that is to go beyond individual behavior and action to that of a collective knowledge domain. It is also known as socio-cognitivism (Jacob & Shaw 1998) or collectivist metatheory in that it emphasizes information phenomena within social, organizational and professional contexts (Talja et al 2005). Such social or cultural concerns first appear in Pierce Butler’s course, Scholarship and Civilization, (1973:1944) taught in the LIS PhD program at the University of Chicago, and can be traced through the vision for social epistemology (Egan & Shera 1952) of his student, Jesse Shera.

The powerful and enduring appeal of domain analysis has recently been celebrated in a special issue of the Journal of Knowledge Organization. The foremost contemporary formulation of domain analysis appeared in a report of a software development study (Hjørland & Albrechtsen 1995) and it has evolved into a methodologically diverse framework that offers an alternative to universalistic approaches. Hjørland’s discussion on the application of domain analysis outlined 11 approaches (Hjørland 2002) and stands as the nearest thing to a methodological statement among several theoretical contributions (Hjørland 2004) Across the broader information science literature, many domain-analytical studies take a bibliometric or informetric approach, as a way to understand scholarly communication, evolving literatures, and related effects on information retrieval (Vakkari & Talja 2006, Fry & Talja 2007, Talja et. al 2007, Smiraglia 2015, Late 2014, Puuska 2014), a key example of which is White & McCain (1998). Yet the versatility of perspectives and approaches is becoming evident across the literature that pairs domain analysis with additional theoretical approaches (see Talja & Maula 2003, Sundin & Johannisson 2005, Andersen 2005, Robinson 2009, Hartel 2010). Given the growing pluralism of approaches, it appears there is no quintessential research design for domain analysis.

In a timely contribution to the broader LIS community, this panel presents emerging methodological approaches and analytical techniques for carrying out domain analysis. The panel will contribute to the ongoing debate about the substance and form of epistemic and ontological character of domain analysis. It offers a disruption

of the normative assumptions of domain analysis by representing the expanding spectrum of approaches with specific techniques of interdisciplinary, arts informed, ethnographic, and cultural approaches.

The event is designed to cut across the specialty areas of LIS and have appeal to a broad audience. The perspective from classification and information behavior, among others, will be represented. Participants were also drawn to have geographic diversity and come from different stages in their scholarly careers, capturing a range of generational viewpoints. 

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