Introduction. There has been a paucity of research focussed on the information practices of welfare workers in Australia. The study attempts to fill the gap, emphasising methodological approaches and the theoretical development that enabled the conceptualisation of welfare workers as information bricoleurs.
Method. Within an interpretivist/constructivist framework, the study used organisational ethnography and grounded theory analysis, combined with literature analysis. The ten months of fieldwork took place in a small community organisation in Victoria, Australia, and included interviews with eight participants and participant observation of fourteen workers and two clients.
Analysis. Grounded theory analysis provided the ability to build theory through ongoing interaction between insights from the data and literature. The analytic techniques, drawn from second generation constructivist grounded theory, included incident by incident coding; constant comparison; focussed coding (e.g., mind maps; memos); and theoretical coding (theoretical memos, concept maps, comparative tables and Venn diagrams of key concepts).
Results. The information practices of welfare workers were found to be fluid, consultative and collaborative. Workers did not follow a predictable sequence of tasks and steps, but rather relied on their box of tricks including personalised information resources, stories and support from colleagues, and their own knowledge to determine the best approach to meet the needs of clients.
Conclusions. Literature analysis, together with an ethnographic approach and grounded theory analysis allowed for significant insights. The methods also enabled the conceptual model of information bricolage (and the bricoleur) to be developed, a model which may have applicability to other health and community disciplines.
Keywords: Information behaviour, social care, Australia
Paper is published in Information Research 21(4): Conceptualising welfare workers as information bricoleurs: theory building using literature analysis, organisational ethnography and grounded theory analysis