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The Electronic Journal of Communication / La Revue Electronique de Communication

Volume 9 Numbers 2, 3, 4 1999



Brenda Dervin
The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio USA

Kathleen D. Clark
The University of Akron
Akron, Ohio USA

Abstract.The purpose of this introductory essay to these three issues of the Electronic Journal of Communication focusing on the Sense-Making Methodology is to provide: (a) an overview of the 18 exemplar studies which constitute these issues; (b) a brief introduction to the Sense-Making Methodology; and (c) a beginning explanation of why authors writing from such diverse discourse communities with such diverse implementations share a common interest in and use of Sense-Making. The substantive foci represented by the exemplars include: public communication campaign and audience research; practitioner encoding; audience decoding; information seeking in context; health communication; and religious communication. Discourse communities include both qualitative and quantitative studies; survey research and ethnography; media uses and effects; cultural studies reception analysis; and feminist studies, among others. Disiciplinary fields represented include: communication, journalism, environmental education, sociology, library and information science, and nursing. Implementations include: in-depth interviews, phone surveys, participant observation, content analysis, text analysis, statistical analysis, and thematic analysis, among others. What all exemplars share in common is the use of the Sense-Making Methodology as a source of methodological guidance for virtually every aspect of research step-taking -- conceptualizing and framing questions, observing, interviewing, listening, and analyzing.


These special issues of the Electronic Journal of Communication (Volume 9, Issues 2, 3 & 4) contain 18 research exemplars using the Sense-Making Methodology which has been under development by Brenda Dervin and colleagues for the past 27 years. Being exemplars, each article is an explication of how Sense-Making Methodology has been useful for conducting research that addresses questions pertinent to a particular discourse community. Thus, we asked all authors to review the pertinent aspects of their relevant literatures and provide a rationale for a study needed within that discourse for which they saw the meta-theory, methodological tools, and/or methods of Sense-Making as particularly useful in some way.

First and foremost, each study was intended to stand on its own within its designated discourse community. In that context, the authors were asked to proceed with their research reports as is usual for their particular community and its analytic approach. The difference, however, is that the articles for these Electronic Journal of Communication (EJC) issues were intended to serve both as interventions in these designated discourse communities and at the same time exemplify the uses made of Sense-Making. To this end, authors were asked to be explicit about how Sense-Making informed their work -- as meta-theory, as methodological guidance, and/or method.

We have divided the 18 articles into five groups in terms of their substantive foci for purposes of organizing these issues -- public communication campaign audience research; media studies, mass communication, and new technologies; health communication and information seeking; information seeking and use in context; and religious communication studies. Within these substantive foci, the authors use both qualitative approaches and quantitative; inductive digs and deductive applications; phone, group, and face-to-face interpersonal interviews.

While all authors collected data in whole or part from interviews, most used units of analysis other than the person: as examples, the question-asking or sense-making instance, the moment of concern, a critical incident, the communicative proceduring or micro-practice. All intersected on a conceptualization of the person as moving across time-space. Some combined their uses of Sense-Making with ethnographic field work; others used phone surveys based on random samples; still others drew judgmental samples for in-person interviews. Some spent as much as a year or more collecting their data; others took as little as a week. Some interviewed very small numbers of informants, as few as one; others interviewed respondents numbering in the hundreds.
Some used formalized interviews; others embedded their interviews into naturalized activities. Some enlisted informants/ respondents to do their own self-interviewing; others tracked them down by arduous travel or phone. Most used interviews which were entirely open-ended, but one was almost entirely closed-ended. Some analyzed texts, some did thematic and narrative analyses, some content analyses, and some statistical analyses. Some used only one of Sense-Making's methodological tools -- the communication-as-procedure analytic, the Sense-Making triangulation, the varieties of interviewing approaches, the verbing category schemes. Some used almost all of them. Some used Sense-Making in primarily practical and applied ways; others soared to the abstract heights.

Researchers and/or respondents were from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Bolivia and Singapore. Informants/respondents included samples of general population adults, intact student groups, adolescents, pregnant addicted mothers, public access TV producers, practitioners running Bolivian miner radio stations, newspaper readers, professionals in their work environments (nurses, auditors, engineers, architects, health practitioners), patients undergoing treatment, and a young girl with leukemia. 

A Brief Introduction to the Sense-Making Methodology

How could all this diversity be combined into one set? The answer is that each turned to the Sense-Making Methodology in whole or part to execute their studies. In the development of Sense-Making, Dervin and colleagues have explicitly intended it to be a methodology in the broadest conception of that term. To this end, Sense-Making stands between approaches (usually the more quantitative) which too often relegate the term methodology to method; and approaches (usually the more qualitative) which too often elide the term methodology into meta-theory. In contrast, Sense-Making has been developed as a methodology between the cracks (Dervin 1999a). Clearly, methodology has been traditionally defined as a branch of philosophy and Sense-Making has treated the term as such. However, Sense-Making has attempted to build a deliberate methodological bridge to method by providing meta-theoretic guidance in such a way that it guides method without artificially constraining it.

Thus, Sense-Making consists of an elaborate set of meta-theoretic premises about the nature of reality, human beings, information, and the phenomena of sense-making, and communicating. These have been applied in a set of methodological tools intended to guide method, including the methods of framing research questions, observing and collecting data, and conducting analyses. Sense-Making has been developed as a general methodology, one applicable to any study of human sense-making and sense-unmaking. Thus, Sense-Making has been developed to stand "between the cracks" in multiple ways -- between, for example, the artificial polarizations of quantitative versus qualitative, deductive versus inductive, prediction versus explanation, theoretic versus applied, contextual versus generalizable, random sampling versus judgmental sampling, modern versus post-modern, critical versus administrative, structure versus agency, stability versus change.

How Sense-Making attempts to build these bridges is the subject of a tale longer than can be told here. For the interested reader, however, there are 18 answers included in these EJC issues, each provided by the authors of the 18 articles. This is particularly appropriate because one of Sense-Making's core assumptions is that we can reach for phenomena but never touch nor freeze; and, we can surround with multiplicity in communion and contest but never homogenize. These 18 authors, thus, all clearly have a vision and mission in common. At the same time their source discourses as well as their applications and implementations are so varied that for many the only overlap is their common use of Sense-Making. But their common use of Sense-Making carries with it a common acceptance of how researchers can usefully intersect with the researched and usefully conduct research that has both theoretical as well as practical implications for communication practice.

Perhaps the fundamental divide which these articles and Sense-Making have attempted to bridge is that of the dominant assumption in most social science related studies which holds that substantive terrains of focus are of such sufficient difference that theorizings must be developed in isolation. We have, thus, a plethora of communication theories, and we have as well a plethora of theories about every phenomenon which is a focus in these 18 articles. From a Sense-Making perspective, this narrow and limiting attention to substantive domains has had many deleterious impacts on scholarship. Examples of these include: the dominant idea in research practice that the various branches of communication studies (e.g. interpersonal, small group, organization, media and mass communication, and new technology studies) have little to say to each other and at best only a superficial common core; and, the development of discourses so specialized and precious that they have become unavailable to enrich each other. More than anything, however, this attention to substances over essences has meant that in the midst of the expansion to cyberspaced communication, multiple fields both inside and outside the social sciences have jumped on the communication bandwagon. This is proliferating yet another plethora of substantive theories and moving us further away from the once valued vision that the study of communication potentially offered something of foundational theoretic value.

If we draw a distinction between different kinds of theorizings, we can distinguish substantive theorizing as that kind of theorizing which aims to describe phenomena. It becomes distinct, thus, from the kind of theorizing that aims to guide our presumings, and lookings, and collectings, and analyzings. This latter kind of theory can be called meta-theorizing but more properly it requires more explicit attention to methodology than the term meta-theory generally imparts in common academic usage. What we need are approaches that are at one and the same time theory for method and method for theory. Sense-Making has attempted to be both.

Sense-Making is useful to these diverse authors, thus, because it does not operate in the world of nouns and substances, but rather in the world of verbs and processes. Further, it rests on the foundational premise that acts of communication (internal and external; intrapersonal, interpersonal, or collective; direct or mediated) all have something in common and can be theorized as such.

A listing of the foundational meta-theoretic premises of Sense-Making is presented below as a suggestive portrait of what is involved in the reach of the authors of these 18 articles. These premises have been explicated elsewhere (Dervin, 1999a, b) so they are being presented here more for their metaphoric and poetic values than the precise thrust of their meanings. Sense-Making as a methodology mandates attention to:

* The human subject, embodied in materiality and soaring across time-space.
* The ontological-epistemological divide, the in-between: the gap.
* Time-space, movement, gap: fluidities and rigidities.
* The verbing as primary ontological category.
* Where the real and the interpretive meet: the verbing between.
* The role of power: energizing the in-between.
* Horizons, past, present, and future.
* Ordinary human beings as theorists.
* Talking the embodied and unconscious into the cognitive and conscious.
* A utopian imagination.
* The researcher as the researched: a dialogic humility.
* Searching for patterns: multiple connectivities.
* Meta-theory as deconstruction.
* Standards of explanation: the dialectic dance of content and commonness.
* A quadruple hermeneutic.

The authors of the EJC articles, then, ascribe in whole or part to a common set of meta-theoretic premises. All share a wish to bring to bear on their studies an approach to thinking about, observing, talking to, and drawing conclusions about human beings in a way that frees them as researchers as much as possible from the substantively-based noun theorizings usually imposed on the researched. In this way, Sense-Making might be called a mandate for a new kind of listening. But the listening from a Sense-Making perspective would more properly be called listenings, thinkings, pointings, observings, concludings, assumings, contestings, and reflexings. At root, Sense-Making has been developed as a methodology for the practice of communication with communication defined as made up of multiple communicatings, as verbings (Dervin, 1993). One such communication context for Sense-Making is the context of researching. Sense-Making, thus, mandates a methodological approach to research which is embedded in meta-theory in the sense of a praxis -- i.e. research practices which are theoretically and critically self-reflexive and repertoirial.

Describing Sense-Making, its many assumptions and methodological tools, is beyond the purpose of this introduction to these three EJC issues. The presentation above has been intended to provide the reader with a brief analogic portrait of the enterprise which since the 1970s has involved the energies of some one hundred researchers and student collaborators and respondents/informants numbering in the thousands. Dervin and colleagues have purposely delayed writing extensive overviews of Sense-Making for almost 20 years because the project demanded multiple voices and visions and it required forging in multiple contexts across time. These special issues of EJC are a first step to a more comprehensive and systematic presentation of the developments. Readers interested in pursuing the foundational writings on Sense-Making are invited to pursue the items listed in the annotated bibliography which ends this introduction. Alternatively, readers are encouraged to read from among these exemplars, consciously pushing across discourses to search for commonalities and contests because in the intersection of these multiple views of Sense-Making there is much to learn.

The 18 Articles in the Three EJC Issues

The 18 articles in these three issues of EJC issues are divided for presentation into five groups based on their emphases of specific substantive discourse communities. These groupings have been organized, in opposition to Sense-Making premises, along noun dimensions rather than verbing dimensions. The reason is, of course, that we want to attract readers working in particular discourse communities. In short, while attempting to build a path to our conception of what theorizing in communication might look like in the future, we must both acknowledge and honor what is current. Some of the articles in these issues came directly out of discourse communities in which the founding authors of Sense-Making have written -- public communication campaign audience research, for example; health communication; information seeking in context. Others involve marked innovations in application -- reception analysis in cultural studies, for example; studies in media education and alternative media; examination of postings by users of web-sites; and religious critique and reinvention. The groupings of the articles as presented in these three EJC issues are as follows:

Public communication campaign audience research
Media studies, mass communication, and new technologies
Information needs, seeking, and use in context
Health communication and information seeking
Religious communication

Public Communication Campaign Audience Research

The five articles in this section all focus on understanding how a particular target audience makes sense of an issue high on governmental and/or other institutional agendas -- adolescent smoking; household adherence to environmental protections; citizen understandings of wilderness and the needs for protection of wilderness; public awareness, opinion, and behavior about HIV/AIDS; and drug use by pregnant women. In every one of these cases there is a hope coming from some institutional direction that these target audiences ought to care about, attend to, or in some way change themselves vis-a-vis the issue in question. What the authors of these articles have in common is an interest in understanding how the target audiences make sense outside the external imposition of institutional and expert worldviews. Four of the authors -- Frenette, Dervin et al., Madden, and Brendlinger et al. -- set out explicitly to intervene in research on public communication campaigns, using Sense-Making meta-theory and method as a tool for interrogation and proposing turns to more audience-oriented, qualitative, and human-centered approaches to both audience research and campaign design. The fifth article by Murphy is grounded in the discourse community which focuses on meanings of wilderness and serves, thus, as an exemplar of how Sense-Making has been used to serve practical audience research mandates in the formative stages of public communication design.

Micheline Frenette. Explorations in adolescents' sense-making of anti-smoking messages.

Brenda Dervin, Jayme E. Harpring, & Lois Foreman-Wernet. In moments of concern: A Sense-Making study of pregnant drug-addicted women and their information needs.

Kym M. Madden, Making sense of environmental messages: An exploration of households' information needs and uses.

Nancy Brendlinger, Brenda Dervin, & Lois Foreman-Wernet When respondents are theorists: An exemplar study in the HIV/ADS context of the use of Sense-Making as an approach to public communication campaign audience research.

Tony P. Murphy. The human experience of wilderness.

Media Studies, Mass Communication, and New Technologies

The second group of articles focuses in different ways on encodings and decodings of mediated messages divided neatly for purposes here into two sets -- studies focusing on encoding and those focusing on decoding. From a Sense-Making perspective, of course, the line is not so tidily drawn. The six studies in this group are anchored in different research genres. Two focus on media practitioner encodings. The article by Huesca examines a well-known alternative media genre (the radio stations operated by Bolivian tin miners) regarding how these broadcasters conceptualized and responded to difference in their everyday activities. The second article by Higgins uses Sense-Making to examine the realization of the empowerment vision in the accounts of their projects by community volunteer producers at a public access cable television facility.

The studies focusing on audience decoding comes from three different discourse communities. The two by Shields and by Dworkin et al. both use Sense-Making to study audience interpretations of media products (gendered advertisements for Shields; television news for Dworkin et al.) and both position Sense-Making as a potentially useful methodological approach for advancing empirical investigations of audience decoding. The next study in this set (Spirek et al.) compares information needs and seeking successes by audiences while reading newspaper leisure time coverage versus while facing actual leisure time situations with the intent of making recommendations for newspaper practice and design. The final study of the set by Schaefer focuses on student sense-making while using electronic discussion groups and concludes that Sense-Making's meta-theory helped him advance theorizing regarding the role of online discussions in community building, what he calls community-ings.

Robert Huesca. Between diversity and solidarity: The challenge of incorporating difference into media practices for social change.

John Higgins Sense-Making and empowerment: A study of the 'vision' of community television.

Vickie Rutledge Shields. Advertising to the gendered audience: Using Sense-Making to illuminate how audiences decode advertisements of idealized female bodies.

Mark Dworkin, Lois Foreman-Wernet, & Brenda Dervin. Sense-making and television news: An inquiry into audience interpretations.

Melissa Spirek, Brenda Dervin, Michael Nilan, and Molly Martin. Bridging gaps between audience and media: A Sense-Making comparison of reader information needs in life-facing versus newspaper reading contexts.

David Schaefer. From community to community-ings: Making sense of electronic discussion groups.

Information Needs, Seeking and Use in Context

The third grouping consists of two articles pertinent to an emerging research focus that has captured primary attention in the field of library and information science -- information, needs, seeking, and use in context. From a Sense-Making perspective, these labels -- information needs, information seeking, and information use -- are not unproblematic and deconstructing them has been a focus of many of Dervin's foundational writings. Sense-Making's meta-theoretic assumptions about the nature of information and knowing are such that it would be possible to construe every study in these three EJC issues as relating to information seeking and use. About half of the studies explicitly name information seeking and use as among their communication phenomena of interest. What makes these two studies different, however, is that these authors are explicitly theorizing information seeking and use, and implementing Sense-Making as a methodological tool for doing so. Both in their different ways attend to issues of how best to conceptualize what might possibly account for and predict information seeking and use. The Nilan and Dervin study focuses on structural arrangements versus information seeking agency in a quantitative predictive analysis. The Cheuk and Dervin study uses Sense-Making as an explicit approach for defining information need situations and in a deep qualitative dig found differences in information seeking across ten different situational types with commonalities within types across three different professional groups.

Michael Nilan & Brenda Dervin. Beyond agency to structure: Moving quantitative Sense-Making studies to a focus on both societal structural arrangements and information seeking agency.

Bonnie Wai-yi Cheuk & Brenda Dervin. A qualitative study of the information seeking situations faced by professionals in three workplace contexts.

Health Communication and Information Seeking

The next grouping consists of three articles which focus on communication in health care contexts. One (Cardillo) is an in-depth case study of the lived experience of one young chronically patient -- the one example in this issue of how Sense-Making has been used for long, in-depth interviewing. Cardillo positions Sense-Making as a response to challenges posed to qualitative researchers by postmodern, postcolonial, and feminist critiques. The second article by Teekman uses Sense-Making to examine the nature of reflective thinking in nursing practice in the hopes of bridging the gap between the lack of clarity in nursing literature regarding the nature of reflective thinking versus its positioning as a primary method for learning from the complexities of practice. The final study in the health communication set by Nelissen et al. focuses on the quality of information services to cancer patents in two hospitals, comparing results of what the authors call supply side and demand side analyses of interviews with both health practitioners and patients.

Linda Cardillo. Sense-Making as theory and method for researching lived experience: An exemplar in the context of health communication and adolescent illness.

Bert Teekman. A Sense-Making examination of reflective thinking in nursing practice.

Paul Nelissen, Daniëlle van Eden, & Silvie Maas. The quality of information services to cancer patients in the hospital: An exploratory study.

Religious Communication Studies

The final two articles in these special issues share a focus on religious critique and reinvention. The study by Coco describes how and why Catholic informants negotiated dissonant situations with respect to their Catholic faith and concluded they were re-defining what it means to be Catholic. The last study by Clark applied Sense-Making's communication-as-procedure analytic in order to understand the procedurings of a feminist women's spirituality group and examine potential gaps between feminist group process as ideal and in practice.

Angela Coco. I can't hear you: Barriers to communication in the Roman Catholic culture.

Kathleen D. Clark. A communication-as-procedure perspective on a woman's spirituality group: A Sense-Making and ethnographic exploration of communicative proceduring in feminist small group process.


Each of the 18 articles in these three issues, then, adds to its own discourse community in its own unique way. The articles have been explicitly chosen for the breadth and for the variations in how they use Sense-Making. Each will no doubt attract readers familiar with each specialized discourse. However, by virtue of their common use of Sense-Making, these articles will hopefully serve outside their own communities. Taken together, they provide illustrative insight into the value of being explicitly methodological in approaching studies of human sense-making. Together, they illustrate the varieties of ways in which a group of interpreters have done so, finding the Sense-Making Methodology useful in the process.


Before closing this introduction, we want to thank the many people who were instrumental in helping us complete the task.

*The theorists to whom Dervin has turned in developing the foundations of Sense-Making: Richard F. Carter, in particular, and: Gregory Bateson, Paul Bourdieu, Jerome Bruner, Michel Foucault, Paolo Freire, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Anthony Giddens, Jurgen Habermas, and William McGuire. Carter, Foucault, Giddens, Habermas, and Freire need special mention because they served as well as inspiration for a substantial number of the authors writing for these issues.

*The reviewers who read articles, many of whom did so multiple times: Joan Durrance, Lois Foreman-Wernet, Micheline Frenette, Cable Green, Patricia Hill, Tom Jacobson, Al Linderman, Kym Madden, Michel Menou, Dave Schaefer, Melissa Spirek, Robert Swieringa, Bert Teekman, and Mary Triece.

*Background researchers: Lois Foreman-Wernet, Julie Archer, Adam Breedon, and Samantha Bako.

* Julie Archer who single-handedly prepared every figure and table for each of the 18 articles so as to provide some degree of uniformity in style across articles.

*Proof-readers par excellence Roy Fish and Melissa Spirek and their companions in the task Lois Foreman-Wernet, Linda Cardillo, and Lillie Jenkins.

*Technical helpers, Jim Campbell, Rick Kent, Grace Rees, and Dave Schaefer.

Finally, of course, we are most grateful for the authors who submitted willingly to a more arduous than usual process, the unnamed several thousand students who have tested, applied, and been subjected to Sense-Making developments, and the informants/ respondents who have participated in these studies.

Annotated Bibliography

The bibliography below includes a core set of articles and chapters which mark in different ways the development of Sense-Making. There are hundreds of other authors who have used Sense-Making in a variety of ways and contributed to its developments in both small and large ways, sometimes by contest, sometimes by communication, most often by extension and new implementation. For comprehensive guidance, see the Sense-Making web site, listed first on the bibliography. The items listed below are listed in reverse chronological order.

Dervin, B. (on-going). Sense-Making studies web-site. [Available on:]

The site includes: (a) a complete list of Dervin's writings relating to Sense-Making; (b) a list of those who have cited Dervin's writings; (c) abstracts of dissertations which have used Sense-Making; (d) examples of Sense-Making instruments and transcriptions of interviews; (e) examples of the uses of Sense-Making in pedagogical and other communication practice settings.

Dervin, B. (1999a). Sense-Making's journey from meta-theory to methodology to method: An example using information seeking and use as research focus. Paper presented at the International Communication Association annual meeting, San Francisco, May. [available from author]

This paper provides the most recent presentation of Sense-Making's meta-theoretic premises and a detailed explication of how these relate to method, exemplified for the study of information seeking in context. This paper includes a discussion on the distinctions between meta-theory, substantive theory, methodology, and method that is not available elsewhere.

Dervin, B. (1999b, in press). On studying information seeking methodologically: The implications of connecting meta-theory to method. Information Processing and Management.

This article consists of the sections of the paper above focusing explicitly on Sense-Making's meta-theory and its implications for studying information seeking.

Dervin, B. (1999c). Chaos, order, and Sense-Making: A proposed theory for information design. In R. Jacobson (Ed.), Information design (pp. 35-65). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

This chapter extracts the implications of Sense-Making's meta-theory for the confluence of interests emerging as a field with a new name but an old mission -- information design. The idea of Sense-Making as a theory of practice is developed here.

Dervin, B. & Shields, P. (1999). Adding the missing user to policy discourse: An exemplar study focusing on telephone privacy. Telecommunications Policy, 23 (5), 403-435.

This article provides an exemplar of the use of Sense-Making in survey research with data analyzed using sophisticated statistical approaches but attempting to do so in policy-articulate ways. The article intends to intervene in discourses relating to the conceptualizations of users in telecommunications policy arenas. Shields & Dervin (1998) listed below is another article from the same project.

Dervin, B. & Schaefer, D. (1999). Peopling the public sphere. Peace Review, 11 (1), 17-23.

An essay which applies Sense-Making's communication-as-procedure perspective to discussions of the potentials for creating of community and public spheres online.

Dervin, B. (1998). Sense-Making theory and practice: An overview of user interests in knowledge seeking and use. Journal of Knowledge Management, 2 (2), 36-46.

An application of Sense-Making as a theory for method in the emerging interest arena of knowledge management, a focus primarily in interdisciplinary business-oriented journals. The concern in the field is for "harvesting" and "managing" the knowledge held by employees, knowledge not now codified in formal ways. The article contests dominant conceptions of knowledge management based on both assumptions from Sense-Making's meta-theory and consistent results from Sense-Making studies regarding the ways people make and use information.

Shields, P. & Dervin, B. (1998). Telephone privacy: residential user perspectives and strategies. Media Information Australia, 87 (May), 95-113.

Another example from the Shields & Dervin large scale study focusing on the missing user in telecommunication policy research.

Dervin, B. (1997). Given a context by any other name: Methodological tools for taming the unruly beast. In P. Vakkari, R. Savolainen, & B. Dervin (Eds.), Information seeking in context. (pp. 13-38). London, UK: Taylor Graham.

The most developed presentation of how Dervin has conceptualized context in the latter developments of Sense-Making.

Dervin, B. & Huesca, R. (1997). Reaching for the communicating in participatory communication: A meta-theoretic analysis. Journal of International Communication, 4 (2), 46-74.

Dervin and Huesca apply the communication-as-procedure analytic to a review of the literature on participatory communication practices as alternative forms of creating and maintaining community. Huesca & Dervin (1994) is another article from the same project.

Dervin, B. (1994). Information <---> democracy: An examination of underlying assumptions. Journal of American Society for Information Science, 45 (6), 369-385.

The most developed recent deconstruction of the term "information."

Huesca, B. & Dervin, B. (1994). Theory and practice in Latin American alternative communication research. Journal of Communication, 44 (4, Autumn), 53-73.

Another article from the line of work applying Sense-Making's communication-as-procedure analytic as a tool for examining communication practices, in this case, alternative communication forms as proposed and practiced in Latin America.

Dervin, B (1993). Verbing communication: Mandate for disciplinary invention. Journal of Communication, 43(3), 45-54.

One of the series of articles (Dervin and Clark, 1993; Dervin, 1991; Dervin and Clark, 1989) incorporating the first presentations of the communication-as-procedure perspective.

Dervin, B., & Clark, K. D. (1993). Communication and democracy: Mandate for procedural invention. In S. Splichal & J. Wasko (Eds.) Communication and democracy (pp. 103-140). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

The most fully developed version of the communication-as-procedure perspective which is both Sense-Making's foundation and its vision of communication theorizing in the future.

Shields, V.R. & Dervin, B. (1993). Sense-making in feminist social science research: A call to enlarge the methodological options of feminist studies. Women's Studies International Forum, 16 (1), 65-81.

An exploration of the potential contribution of Sense-making as methodological option for feminist studies.

Dervin, B. (1992). From the mind's eye of the user: The sense-making qualitative-quantitative methodology. In J. D. Glazier, & R. R. Powell (Eds.), Qualitative research in information management, (pp. 61-84). Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

One of two summary presentations of Sense-Making research and applications to date, this one written primarily for the discourse communities serving library and information science. The other is listed below as Dervin, 1989.

Dervin, B. (1991). Comparative theory reconceptualized: From entities and states to processes and dynamics. Communication Theory, 1 (1), 59-69.

The third of the set of three articles which develop Sense-Making's emphasis on "verbing". This article (like Dervin, 1993) attempts to speak to the communication field as a potentially coherent field.

Dervin, B. (1989). Users as research inventions: How research categories perpetuate myths. Journal of Communication, 39 (2), 5-8.

One of two articles (the other is Dervin, 1980) which deconstruct how research categories and approaches create categories of users (including the category of knowledge gap) and then impose these on the researched.

Dervin, B., & Clark, K. D. (1989). Communication as cultural identity: the invention mandate. Media Development 2, 5-8.

Another in the set of papers that begins to lay out a communication-as-procedure perspective. For this article, the application is to cultural identity.

Dervin, B. (1989). Audience as listener and learner, teacher and confidante: The sense-making approach. In R. Rice, & C. Atkin (Eds.), Public communication campaigns (2nd edition), (pp. 67-86). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

An application of Sense-Making and a summary of its usefulnesses to the study of public communication campaign audiences and to the design of communication campaigns.

Dervin, B. & Dewdney, P. (1986). Neutral questioning: A new approach to the reference interview. RQ: Reference Quarterly. 25 (4), 506-513.

An application of Sense-Making's approach to the interview to library practice at the reference desk. The term "neutral questioning" was invented by a library practitioner. The term has now been changed in Dervin's writing to "Sense-Making questioning" because she would argue that neutrality is neither achievable nor desirable. What is useful are procedures for dialogue and Sense-Making questioning is presented as one such proceduring.

Dervin, B. & Nilan, M. (1986). Information needs and uses. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 21, 3-33.

This is a much-cited review of the studies of information needs, seeking, and use written for the fields of information and library science. The Sense-Making approach and other user-oriented approaches to user studies are contrasted with user studies based primarily on transmission ideas of communication.

Dervin, B. (1983, May). An overview of Sense-Making research: Concepts, methods, and results to date. Paper presented at the International Communication Association, Dallas, TX.
[Available online:]

Written in 1983 when Dervin was beginning to coalesce the components of 11 years of work into an approach with the name Sense-Making. At this point, Dervin still referred to the approach as constructivist while now she refers to it as a verbing, or proceduring approach. This 1983 article incorporated a listing of a series of studies done in the late 1970s and early 1980s applying Sense-Making to the study of information needs, seeking, and use. It was in this context, with funding from the then U.S. Office of Libraries and Learning Resources and the California State Library, that Dervin began the Sense-Making journey. The fact that she was located in Seattle, Washington in the same unit as Richard F. Carter was a vital contiguity because his influence, more than any other, impacted the work and in important fundamental ways made it possible.

Dervin, B. (1980). Communication gaps and inequities: Moving toward a reconceptualization. In B. Dervin & M. Voight (Eds.), Progress in Communication Sciences: Vol. 2 (pp. 73-112). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishers.

An early deconstruction of the terms "information" and "knowledge gap" and how conceptualizations and uses of these terms artificially construct the researched (e.g users, audiences) as in gap without actually hearing how those being research see the gaps and struggles in their own lived experiences..

Copyright 1999 Communication Institute for Online Scholarship, Inc.

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