The Intellectual Characteristics of the Information Field: Heritage and Substance

Ping Zhang, Jasy Liew Suet Yan, Katie Devries Hassman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


As the information field (IField) becomes more recognized by different constituencies for education and research, the need to better understand its intellectual characteristics becomes more compelling. Although there are various conceptualizations of the IField, to date, in-depth studies based on empirical evidence are scarce. This article reports a study that fills this gap. We focus on the first five ISchools in the ICaucus as a proxy to represent the IField. The intellectual characteristics are depicted by two independent sets of data on tenure track faculty as knowledge contributors: their intellectual heritages and the intellectual substance in their journal publications. We use a critical analysis method to examine doctoral training areas and 3 years of journal publications. Our results indicate that (a) the IField can be better conceptualized with empirical support by a four-component model that includes People, Information, Technology, and Management, as predicted by the I-Model (Zhang & Benjamin, 2007); (b) the ISchools' faculty members are diverse, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary as shown by their intellectual heritages, by their research foci, by journals in which they publish, by the contexts within which they conduct research, and by the levels of analysis in research investigations; (c) the five ISchools share similarities while evincing differences in both faculty heritages and intellectual substances; (d) ISchool tenure track faculty members do not collaborate much with each other within or across schools although there is great potential; and (e) intellectual heritages are not good predictors of scholars' intellectual substance. We conclude by discussing the implications of the findings on IField identity, IField development, new ISchool formation and existing ISchool evolution, faculty career development, and collaboration within the IField.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2468-2491
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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