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An In-depth Exploration of Information-Seeking Behavior Among Individuals With Cancer: Part 1: Understanding Differential Patterns of Active Information Seeking

Lambert, Sylvie D. N, PhD(c); Loiselle, Carmen G. N, PhD; Macdonald, Mary Ellen PhD

doi: 10.1097/

The purpose of this 2-part paper was to describe individuals' health information-seeking behavior (HISB) patterns that emerged from our grounded theory study. Thirty individual interviews and 8 focus groups were conducted with individuals diagnosed with cancer. Analysis was characterized by constant comparison diagram, an evolving coding scheme, and ultimately the generation of a grounded theory of HISB patterns. Five HISB patterns were identified: (1) intense information seeking-a keen interest in detailed cancer information; (2) complementary information seeking-the process of getting "good enough" cancer information; (3) fortuitous information seeking-the search for cancer information mainly from others diagnosed with cancer; (4) minimal information seeking-a limited interest for cancer information; and (5) guarded information seeking-the avoidance of some cancer information. Part 1 focuses on describing the first 3 HISB patterns considered to illustrate variations in active information seeking. Each pattern is explained, including the type, amount, and sources of information sought. This analysis documents variations in active HISB often overlooked in the cancer literature. Findings may assist healthcare professionals in tailoring their informational interventions according to a patient's preferred HISB pattern. Furthermore, findings may inform the refinement of instruments measuring HISB to include variations in active information seeking.

Authors' Affiliations: School of Nursing (Ms Lambert and Drs Loiselle and Macdonald), Department of Oncology (Dr Macdonald), McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Centre for Nursing Research, SMBD Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Dr Loiselle); and Montreal Children's Hospital, Quebec, Canada (Dr Macdonald).

This work was supported, in part, by a doctoral research award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), a doctoral training award from the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research/Institute of Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute of Canada Strategic Training Program Award in Psychosocial Oncology, and a doctoral student project grant from the Groupe de recherche interuniversitaire en sciences infirmières de Montréal.

Corresponding author: Sylvie D. Lambert, N, PhD(c), School of Nursing, McGill University, 3506 University Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, H3A 2A7 (

Accepted for publication June 1, 2008.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.