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Rhode Island School of Design

Psychology of Researching: the Structure of Research

An awareness of the psychological aspects of doing research can improve our understanding and experience of this complex process.

the Structure of Research

Two Levels of Research

First Level: Searching for Meaning & Understanding
•    Topic formation process
•    Tolerance for uncertainty (how well we cope with not knowing)


Second Level: Searching for Information
•    Mechanics of searching
•    Comfort level of doing research
•    Navigating new or unfamiliar interfaces and systems
•    Ability to critique sources for further consideration

•    Ability to gather and organize the large number of sources you encounter


Psychological Influences on Research

•    Attention/distractions


Emotional state


Motivation - intrinsic/extrinsic


•    Screen
-fatigue (skim, scan, scroll)

Time constraints

Recommendations for Time Management

Build time into your research process for the four R's

•    Rest breaks

•    Reflection

•    Revisions

•    Revelation - the Aha! moment

Seven Types of Uncertainty

How do you know you're doing research well? Are you uncertain?

Van Rysbergen defined seven types of uncertainty in the information seeking process (Kuhlthau 8). Uncertainty can cause feelings of anxiety and lack of confidence which may influence one's research process.

  • ignorance
  • imprecision
  • incompleteness
  • undecidability
  • complexity
  • randomness
  • vagueness

Kuhlthau, Carol Collier. Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services. 2nd ed. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.

  Ellen Petraits

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