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The Research Imperative: Domains of Research

The context of health information research today is broadening to include not only the health care field but also changes in what the meaning of information is, in how information is procured and used, in how we learn and how we teach, and in what the options for scholarly communication are. In addition, new technologies, the economy, and world events, which significantly affect the environment and public health, drive demand for quality information. An international perspective is required. New roles for librarians are emerging.

In this increasingly complex information landscape, overarching knowledge domains help define the profession. Domains of health sciences librarianship complement the fields of medical informatics, information science, and public health. Questions focused on effectively identifying, contextualizing, synthesizing, sifting, structuring, disseminating, and using information to improve health care are the research problems for health sciences information practitioners.

Domains of knowledge in health sciences librarianship were identified by Koufogiannakis et al. [1], Banks et al. [2], Perry et al. [3], and Dalrymple [4]. These resources, along with the key informant interviews conducted during the background research for this policy include but are not limited to the following domains for health information research:

  • community dimensions of information practice
  • effective information dissemination and delivery strategies
  • health information structure, acquisition, and use
  • information behaviors including human–technology interaction
  • information contexts and meaning
  • information policy and standards
  • information technologies and their transformational nature
  • knowledge translation
  • leadership and organizational change
  • marketing, communications, and advocacy
  • systems thinking
  • teaching and learning

Domains of knowledge ground the profession and provide the larger context and meaning. They represent the summation of the profession’s work. Continuing to refine these domains and recognizing them in the community of practice helps advance opportunities for understanding the role of the profession and its research strengths. (For examples of the types of real world questions that these domains encompass, see Eldredge [5].)

The Research Imperative is a statement of the values, rationale, and challenges for the role of research in health information practice. The specific research topics of interest to the association are often time-bound and contextually driven. Consequently, identifying specific domains for study is not the objective of this policy statement. However, research topics of high priority to the association may be issued periodically. 


1. Koufogiannakis D, Crumley E, Klassen TP, Pickett W. A content analysis of librarianship research. J Inf Sci 2004;30(3):227–39.

2. Banks M Cogdill KW, Selden CR, Cahn MAl. Complementary competencies: public health and health sciences librarianship. J Med Libr Assoc 2005 Jul;93(3):338–47.

3. Perry J, Roderer N, Assar S. A current perspective on medical informatics and health sciences librarianship. J Med Libr Assoc 2005 Apr;93(2):199–205.

4. Dalrymple P. Improving health care through information: research challenges for health sciences libraries. Libr Trends 2003 Spring;51(4):525–40.

5. Eldredge J. The most relevant and answerable research questions facing the practice of health sciences librarianship. Hypothesis 2001;15(1):9–14,17.

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