ASHLEY, NANCY WINNIFORD; PHD

                         THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, 1995


                         NIR, network information retrieval, is the act of finding and retrieving information on interconnected
                         computer networks. The research investigated the extent to which NIR awareness and use has diffused
                         through a broad research population, and why and how academics become aware of and use NIR.
                         Everett Rogers' diffusion of innovation theory was adapted to guide the investigation. A survey of 888
                         faculty members at the University of Arizona with Internet-accessible computer accounts resulted in a
                         32% return of surveys. Respondents from the various colleges at the university use between 20% and
                         39% of available NIR technologies, suggesting that NIR is in an early stage of diffusion in all colleges.
                         Twenty-one one hour open-ended interviews were conducted with faculty from a variety of disciplines.
                         Analysis of coded interview comments was used to test the usefulness of Rogers' theory in describing
                         the diffusion of NIR. Predictions that mass media communication channels which go outside the local
                         community will be more likely to result in awareness and use of NIR were not supported. Predictions that
                         use of NIR would be associated with the perception that NIR (1) is compatible with needs and social
                         norms, and (2) has relative advantage over previous practice, were supported. The predictions that use
                         would be associated with perceptions of (1) compatibility with previous conditions, (2) low NIR
                         complexity, and (3) trialability of NIR, were not supported. The explanatory power of the diffusion of
                         innovation theory is improved for diffusion of NIR if NIR technologies are not studied in a vacuum. Rather,
                         NIR technologies need to be studied in association with particular types of information resources (i.e.
                         general interest and research-related resources) and particular types of communities (i.e. research
                         communities). The study suggests that before NIR will diffuse in research communities, academics will
                         need to agree that NIR dissemination of information will be rewarded in the promotion and tenure
                         process. Such redefinition of social norms will help to create within research areas a critical mass of NIR
                         users, and thus contribute to the diffusion of NIR.

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