Information Seeking Behaviors of Clinical Laboratory Scientists

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Year of Completion


First Advisor

Heting Chu


This study explored the information seeking behaviors of clinical laboratory scientists, including information needs, information sources used, information seeking approaches, and barriers to information access. A total of 208 active members of the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Scientists (ASCP) completed the questionnaire survey while 16 of them were also interviewed for gathering additional data for the research.

The findings of this study demonstrate that clinical laboratory scientists as a group exhibit information seeking behaviors different from that observed in related research when a need for information arises. Clinical laboratory scientists in general show positive emotions and behaviors (e.g., confident and experienced) when seeking information. A high reliance on electronic resources (e.g., Internet resources, electronic journals) is witnessed among this study's participants although they are on average around 50 years old. They also use multiple resources (e.g., databases, colleagues) to verify the accuracy and reliability of what they found. However, the physical library is rarely visited and textbooks are no longer a main source but become supplementary for clinical educational purposes. Unlike what has been reported in prior research with other healthcare professionals such as physicians and nurses, clinical laboratory scientists participate in collaborative learning and information sharing to meet their information needs. In addition, they subscribe to listservs and web alerts besides utilizing social networks (e.g., Facebook) in their information seeking.

The barriers identified in the present research can be attributed to time, financial and technology factors. Given the very nature of clinical laboratory work, this profession is often under tremendous time pressure. Information sources readily available or accessible from the lab would greatly help them obtain what they need then and there. Limited financial resource is not a new topic in any field but does have a noticeable, negative impact on clinical laboratory scientists' information seeking behaviors. It is not surprising that many of the barriers are technology related, ranging from poorly designed computer systems to inadequate training for using various electronic resources in the domain of clinical laboratory science. Improving the design of those systems that the profession uses daily and providing workshops or training would facilitate clinical laboratory scientists with their efforts in information seeking.

This study has shed some light for the first time on clinical laboratory scientists' information seeking behaviors, which would enable information service providers to better understand this profession's needs and better serve them as a result. This is particularly important in the healthcare field such as clinical laboratory science, where quality of services is the ultimate goal and critical in patient care. Even though the current study, due to some limitations in its data collection, is unable to propose a model delineating clinical laboratory scientists' information seeking behaviors, some characteristics unique in this profession's information seeking are identified which lays some foundation for future research in this area.