Using internet groups in situations of information poverty: Topics and information needs



This study explores the use of online newsgroups and discussion groups by people in situations of information poverty. Through a qualitative content analysis of 200 posts across Internet groups, we identify topics and information needs expressed by people who feel they have no other sources of support available to them. We uncover various health, well-being, social, and identity issues that are not only crucial to the lives of the people posting but which they are unwilling to risk revealing elsewhere—offering evidence that these online environments provide an outlet for the expression of critical and hidden information needs. To enable this analysis, we first describe our method for reliably identifying situations of information poverty in messages posted to these groups and outline our coding approach. Our work contributes to the study of both information seeking within the context of information poverty and the use of Internet groups as sources of information and support, bridging the two by exploring the manifestation of information poverty in this particular online setting.