Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2018

5 - Domain analysis


If information science is to be taken seriously as a field of study, it is important that basic theories are formulated and examined in the field. Domain analysis is one serious attempt to consider the basic problems in IS. Anybody working in the field should care about the arguments that have been or might be raised for or against this view.

Birger Hjørland (2010, 1653–4)


Domain analysis is a ‘metatheoretical framework for library and information science … the basic claim in [domain analysis] is that “domains” of knowledge are the proper object of study for LIS’ (Hjørland, 2010, 1648). It is also a very practical framework for understanding information on particular topics, and for particular groups, and underlies the work of the subject specialist information practitioner. It provides a valuable link between research and practice in the information sciences.

The idea was conceived by, and remains closely associated with, Birger Hjørland, Professor of Information Science at the Royal School of Librarianship and Information Science, Copenhagen. Hjørland – whose work on the philosophy and concepts of information science we have already encountered in earlier chapters – has for many years been one of the foremost authorities on the foundations of information science and of knowledge organization.

We will use Hjørland's meaning of domain analysis here; but note that the phrase has sometimes been used in the library and information literature with a more restrictive meaning, usually relating either to bibliometric analysis or to classification.

Domain analysis as a theory for information science

As we saw in Chapter 3, the idea of domain analysis was initially introduced in association with the socio-cognitive paradigm, for information science, as an alternative to the cognitive and behavioural paradigms (Hjørland and Albrechtsen, 1995). These latter approaches focused on the individual, and their personal knowledge, behaviours, preferences, information needs, opinions of relevance, etc. By contrast, wrote Hjørland and Albrechtsen,

The domain analytic paradigm in information science (IS) states that the best way to understand information in IS is to study the knowledge domains as thought or discourse communities … Knowledge organization, structure, co-operation patterns, language and communication forms, information systems, and relevance criteria are reflections of the objects of the work of these communities and of their role in society.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO