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Inquiry, Search, and Creativity

Special issue call for papers from Information and Learning Sciences

Guest Editors:

Preben Hansen, Dept. of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University, Sweden
Soo Young Rieh, School of Information, University of Texas at Austin, USA
Michael Twidale, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

This Special Issue is intended to bring together scholars from information science, learning and education sciences, HCI and design and other disciplines to present a collection of contributions to further our understanding of how inquiry and search activities affect in people's creativity and how creativity can be understood as a driver in information searching situations.

Creativity is a fundamental human ability and a complex phenomenon to study. It can mean to make, to produce or to cause to grow. Thus, it can be referred to as something that 'comes into existence'. Creative ideas or products have to be different, novel, innovative, or of high quality (Kaufman & Sternberg, 2010). Creative processes may also take place in well or ill-defined spaces, which may affect situations in which learning and inquiries take place.

Within psychology, Sawyer (2012) developed a creativity framework, which identifies cognitive processes across different stages such as finding the problem, acquiring knowledge, gathering related information, incubation, generating ideas, combining ideas, selecting the best ideas, and externalizing ideas. This framework has a number of implications for information science and learning science. Sawyer emphasizes that creative people actively seek out new information, solutions, connections, and problems and then engage in the critical thinking process by synthesizing information from multiple perspectives (2012; Twidale and Rieh, 2019).

In the field of human computer interaction (HCI), critical thinking and design exploration are important and constantly ongoing activities and processes that researchers are engaged in. Creativity involves multiple perspectives and Shneiderman (2000) advocated that "education could expand from acquiring facts, studying existing knowledge, and developing critical thinking, to include more emphasis on creating novel artifacts, insights, or performances" (p. 115). He discussed how user interface designers could develop tools that support different creativity perspectives, such as tools that stimulate inspiration by linking to associated ideas, enable exhaustive exploration, and support social strategies (Shneiderman, 2000).

In the field of information science and information management, there is a growing interest in exploring the intersection of search, learning, and creativity. Lee, Theng, and Goh (2005) identified six stages for creative information seeking: (1) preparation for starting information seeking; (2) chaining information sources; (3) browsing and searching; (4) incubation for differentiating purposes; (5) monitoring and extracting for illumination; (6) verification of information sources. Rieh, Collins-Thompson, Hansen, and Lee (2016) differentiate and discuss receptive learning, critical learning, and creative learning. The authors refer creative learning to the generation of new ideas and the design of new artefacts from what has been learned. Important aspects in this process are people engaging in information behaviors such as prioritizing and sense-making, beyond the general acknowledged tasks of obtaining, selecting, judging relevance, and assessing credibility. Zhang and Capra (2019) investigated creative task domains and activities and found out how people conduct searching for such creative tasks.

Searching and inquiry are fundamental human processes that require higher-level cognitive activity (Hansen & Rieh, 2017). A creative approach to search may involve what is known as an "inspire item search" – a type of search different in style and method to a "known item search." As Sawyer notes, creativity involves questioning and identifying problems, seeking out new information and solutions, formulating strategies, generating ideas, and combining ideas (2012). To the extent that search is involved, creativity might also be inclusive of critically evaluating the usefulness and credibility of information, and judging its value across multiple sources in order to generate new ideas (Rieh, Collins-Thompson, Hansen, & Lee, 2016).

We seek submissions investigating a variety of topics related to inquiry, search, and creativity spanning across multiple research fields such as learning sciences, information seeking behavior, search as learning, human information interaction, interactive information retrieval, and user engagement and motivation. Contributions to this special issue will go beyond simply identifying the intersection between inquiry and creativity, or search and creativity. Contributions will also suggest new approaches and support for humans involved in creative activities while learning during inquiry, search and/or information-seeking environments (online or in situ in various inquiry contexts).

  • Search as learning
  • Supporting creativity in search
  • User engagement and motivation
  • Creative thinking process
  • Transitional processes, e.g. between inquiry and creativity in search
  • Divergent thinking for learning
  • Inquiry and innovation
  • Connecting information seeking and creativity
  • Serendipitous information seeking and learning
  • Creativity and ideation
  • Enhancing creativity through information discovery
  • Learning from multiple sources
  • Inquiry learning and searching
  • Individual vs. collaborative inquiry and creativity
  • From known item search to searching for a surprise
  • User support for human-based inquiry
  • Human information interaction and creativity
  • Support of cognitive processes during creative learning and searching
  • New types of information interaction based on learning and creativity

    Important Dates:

    Initial submission due: February 15, 2020

    First round decisions made: April 1, 2020

    Revised manuscripts due: May 15, 2020

    Final decisions confirmed (revised manuscripts approved): June 15, 2020

    Anticipated publication date: Nov/Dec. 2020

    Submission Guidelines:

    Submissions should comply with the journal author guidelines that are here - see Submissions should be made through ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. Registration and access is available at


    Hansen, P. & Rieh, S. Y. (2016). Editorial: Recent advances on searching as learning: An introduction to the special issue. Journal of Information Science, 42(1), 3-6.

    Lee, S-S, Theng, Y-L, and Goh, H-L. (2005). Creative information seeking Part I: A conceptual framework, Aslib Proceedings, 57 (5), 460 - 475

    Rieh, S. Y., Collins-Thompson, K., Hansen, P., & Lee, H-J (2016). Toward searching as a learning process: A review of current perspectives and future directions. Journal of Information Science, 42(1), 19-34.

    Sawyer, K. (2012). Explaining creativity: The science of human innovation. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

    Shneiderman, B. (2000). Creating creativity: User interfaces for supporting innovation. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 7(1), 114-138.

    Twidale, M. & Rieh, S. Y. (2019). Information seeking at the intersection of search, learning, inquiry, and creativity: Sharing stories to inform creative research. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology.

    Zhang, Y. & Capra, R. (2019). Understanding how people use search to support their everyday creative tasks. Proceedings of the ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR '19) 153-162.