Fields of Specialization

Stack of books

There are two broad fields of research and teaching specialization in the doctoral program in LIS. These broad, dynamic areas reflect research and teaching specializations of faculty members in the doctoral program in library and information science.

Fields of specialization

Information & Society

This field encompasses perspectives that share a primary focus on problems arising from the ways in which information and information technologies are implicated in social, political, and cultural processes. Research activities include:
  • Theoretical problems in information studies: philosophy, ethics, epistemology
  • Documentation
  • Information policy
  • Legal aspects of information
  • Political economy of information
  • Information and social justice
  • Literacy and reading
  • Information professions and work
  • Issues of diversity in LIS (gender, race, sexual identity, etc.)
  • Information users, uses, seeking, behaviours, and practices
  • Information in everyday life
  • Health information
  • Information and social networks
  • Libraries and other information-related organizations, their cultures, and their politics
Although research and teaching specializations may belong to both areas, the following faculty members work primarily in this area:

Nick Dyer-Witheford, Carole Farber, Bernd Frohmann , Roma Harris, Heather Hill, Catherine Johnson , Lynne McKechnie , Pam McKenzie, Ajit Pyati, Anabel Quan-Haase, Paulette Rothbauer, Victoria Rubin, Nadine Wathen, Margaret Ann Wilkinson, Lu Xiao.

In considering potential chief supervisors, students should be careful to determine that the faculty member of choice has the appropriate supervisory status.

Information Organization & Technologies

This field encompasses perspectives that share a primary focus on technological problems of information organization, retrieval, measurement, and communication. Research activities include:
  • Webometrics and informetrics
  • Information retrieval
  • Computer-mediated LIS pedagogy
  • Knowledge management
  • Communication technologies
  • Human-computer interface design
  • Information design and architecture
  • Information taxonomic systems
  • Classification of information
  • Computer assisted abstracting and indexing
  • Web document descriptions and metadata
  • Natural language processing
  • Web data mining
  • Multilingual classification transfer
Although research and teaching fields may belong to both areas, the following faculty members work primarily in this area:

Isola Ajiferuke, Jacquelyn Burkell, Grant Campbell, Victoria Rubin, Kamran Sedig, Liwen Vaughan, Lu Xiao.

In considering potential chief supervisors, students should be careful to determine that the faculty member of choice has the appropriate supervisory status.

The two broad fields of specialization in the LIS doctoral program as noted above provide a general description of the diverse research activities undertaken by faculty within the program. However, in some cases, faculty members who work within common areas of interest may wish to collaborate on a specific topic or set of topics. Accordingly, LIS Research Clusters are a mechanism for indicating areas of research commonality and associated activities for various LIS faculty and doctoral students.

Current research clusters

Information and Communication Technologies

This cluster studies the role and use of technologies in contexts of various groups and their information practices. Our areas of interest include, but are not limited to, technology adoption, impact, and user-centered design.

With the widespread use of information and communication technologies, important questions comprise:
  • How are social relationships developed and maintained on- and offline, and what is the impact on social capital, friendship, dating, identity, and communities as a whole?
  • What is the feasibility of emotion-based representation and retrieval of photographs on participatory websites?
  • What can we learn from the use of language in computer-mediated contexts? In particular, how can we analyze computer-mediated discourse (e.g., blogs) for the existence and prevalence of psycho-linguistic phenomena such as emotions, certainty, trust, credibility, deception and others?
  • How do we support group activities in different contexts through a socio-technical approach and participatory design methodology?
Technologies of interest include real-time communication, natural language processing, language technologies, text-mining, social software, social tagging, library technology systems, multimedia information retrieval, and data mining..

Our research encompasses a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods such as surveys, interviews, content analysis, grounded theory, ethnography, social network analysis, and nonparametric statistics of user-generated data.

Students interested in any of these topics are invited to contact the investigators directly:

Anabel Quan-Haase (LIS), Victoria Rubin (LIS), Lu Xiao (LIS), Jacquelyn Burkell (LIS).

Health Information and Policy

The work of scholars in this cluster examines and explores the behaviours, attributes and interactions of actors and systems in health and health-related domains as they relate to:
  1. The production, organization, and retrieval of health information, including the development, implementation and evaluation of health information systems both in the context of developed and developing world health care systems
  2. The use of information by various actors in the system, including health care practitioners, policy/program decision-makers and people seeking health information for themselves and their family members
  3. The translation, linkage and exchange of health-related information between and among the actors in this, and related, systems. The emphasis is on critical approaches to examining these issues and their interaction, using theory from within and external to LIS, including fields such as cultural studies, science and technology studies, women's studies, etc.
The following faculty members have research interests in this area (faculty member's program affiliation indicated in parentheses):

Isola Ajiferuke, Jacquie Burkell, Grant Campbell, Pam McKenzie, Anabel Quan-Haase, Daniel Robinson, Sandra Smeltzer, Nadine Wathen, Margaret Ann Wilkinson.

Marxist Political Economy of Information

This research cluster gathers work on the political economy of information inspired by the very rich range of Marxist scholarship from the Marx’s earliest manuscripts to the contemporary autonomist Marxism and beyond. Issues of interest include reappropriations of the concept of the commons—resources that all in a specified community may use, but none can own—which have become increasingly prominent in library and information science, having been recently revived by opponents of corporate globalization in their critiques of the privatization and commodification of informational resources. This cluster encourages Marxist analyses of historical and global regimes of information capitalism, from the print era of Marx’s time to contemporary cyber-capitalism.

Topics include:
  • the 'informatization' of labour
  • digital surveillance and control technologies as instruments of capital
  • Marxist analyses of the operations of digitized biopower
  • Marxist analyses of digitized financial markets
  • information commons and enclosure
  • globalization and information capitalism
  • struggles over intellectual property and copyright
  • information networks as alternatives and resistance to global techno-capitalism
The following faculty members have research interests in this area (faculty member's program affiliation indicated in parentheses):

Nick Dyer-Witheford, Bernd Frohmann, Ajit Pyati, Samuel Trosow.

Social Relations of Information Practices, Reading and Libraries

The work of scholars associated with this cluster examines and explores how social relations are interpenetrated with information seeking and use and with the cultures of reading/literacy. In particular, researchers are interested in the ways in which information behaviours and reading cultures are conceptualized, socially constructed, enacted and reproduced. Scholars in this research cluster also work on topics related to the library as a socio-cultural institution and as an important locus of activities in the life of its users and communities.

Topics associated with this cluster include:
  • Reading and reading practices
  • Literacy
  • Libraries as public spaces
  • Information seeking in everyday life
  • Information seeking and use in particular settings (such as academia, professional and other work milieus, rural areas, etc.)
  • Information seeking and use for particular needs (such as immigrant settlement, health concerns, employment, etc.)
  • Scholarly communication systems
  • Communication in the information seeking/reference transaction
  • Qualitative methods
The following faculty members have research interests in this area (faculty member's program affiliation indicated in parentheses):

Jacquelyn Burkell (LIS/Media Studies) , Carole Farber (LIS/Media Studies), Heather Hill (LIS), Catherine Johnson (LIS), Lynne McKechnie (LIS/Media Studies), Pam McKenzie (LIS), Ajit Pyati (LIS), Anabel Quan-Haase (LIS/Media Studies), Paulette Rothbauer (LIS), Nadine Wathen (LIS).

Theoretical Problems in Information Studies: Philosphy, Ethics, Epistemology

The current configuration of the research cluster on Theoretical Problems in Information Studies: Philosophy, Ethics, Epistemology is formed by investigations of how the issues nominated in its title benefit from the works of structuralist and post-structuralist theorists such as Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Giles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Bruno Latour, Ian Hacking, Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, and Antonio Negri.

Topics currently under investigation include:
  • The application of “assemblage theory” to information studies;
  • Foucauldian analysis of the semantic web;
  • A Deleuzian theory of librarianship;
  • The controversy over the concept of "immaterial labour";
  • Deleuzian and Foucauldian contributions to information ethics;
  • The relation of information technologies to biopolitics and the reinterpretation of "species-being"; and
  • Theoretical issues in documentation
The following faculty members have research interests in this area (faculty member's program affiliation indicated in parentheses):

Grant Campbell (LIS) , Nick Dyer-Witheford (LIS/Media Studies), Bernd Frohmann (LIS/Media Studies).

Webometrics and Informetrics

Webometrics, the quantitative study of the Web and Web related phenomena, is a rapidly developing area of information science. It owes its intellectual heritage to informetrics which is a more mature area of research with decades of history. Informetrics is the study of the quantitative aspects of information processes, including the production, dissemination and use of information regardless of its form or origin. It is related to bibliometrics, which studies the quantitative aspects of recorded information, and scientometrics, which studies the quantitative aspects of science. FIMS faculty members and PhD students have conducted extensive research and published papers in this area.

Topics associated with the cluster include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Evaluation of Web search engines
  • Web hyperlink analysis
  • Web server log analysis
  • Web traffic analysis
  • Web content analysis
  • Informetric laws
  • Citation analysis (both traditional and Web citation analysis)
  • Modeling of information systems
The following faculty members have research interests in this area (faculty member's program affiliation indicated in parentheses):

Isola Ajiferuke (LIS) , Liwen Vaughan (LIS).



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