Faculty Research: Naresh Agarwal

As a researcher with computer engineering expertise, Assistant Professor Naresh Agarwal studies information behavior. He explores how people seek what they need from an overwhelming abundance of information from a variety of sources. He aims to understand users' perceptions and interactions with information systems and technology.

Current conflicting research shows that information is selected based on either convenience or quality. Agarwal's research takes a holistic approach in trying to resolve the issue. He aims to learn how users prioritize their information-seeking needs in various environments. By recognizing the nuanced perceptions and needs of information seekers, Agarwal applies his theoretical frameworks to several populations, including knowledge workers, LIS students, medical residents, and toddlers.

Agarwal is involved in many ongoing projects with papers, presentations, and book chapters in the pipeline. With a grant from the President's Fund for Faculty Research, Agarwal is conducting a study at a Boston ho spital to learn how institutional pressures and new media influence medical residents' information searches. In collaboration with Associate Professor Gerry Benoit, Agarwal has a Hollowell grant to examine users' affective behaviors when using an image-driven retrieval system. A virtual student-peer-review collaboration with Singapore's Temasek Polytechnic during the Fall 2012 semester resulted in an accepted paper presentation at the June 2013 Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries Conference in Rome. He is working on two journal articles resulting from the project that is also part of the year-long teaching seminar organized by the Center for Excellence in Teaching. Along with writing a chapter about toddlers' iPad use for a book about children's information behavior, Agarwal is working on another chapter with Professor Jamshid Baheshti from McGill University on a model of context for serendipity for a book about serendipitous discovery of information.

In addition to teaching LIS 488 Technology for Information Professionals, LIS 403 Evaluation of Information Services, and LIS 465 Knowledge Management, Agarwal supervises one to three independent studies each semester. In collaboration with Agarwal and GSLIS Librarian Linda Watkins, student Mirna Turcios recently presented "Library and Information Science Literature: How Much of It Is Research?" at the October 2012 American Society for Information Science & Technology annual meeting. Another independent study project with Amy Deschenes resulted in a published paper about document delivery in the Journal of Interlibrary Loan in 2012.

At the heart of his research papers, lectures, and presentations, there is a common theme that also appears in his 2012 paper: "Making Sense of Sense-making: Tracing the History and Development of Dervin's Sense-making Methodology."

He writes, "My approach and purpose in life has been about synthesis -- trying to reconcile apparent contradictions and differences, instead of seeing the world in the form of stereotypes and labels. . . . It has always been my endeavor to find commonalities among differences, and to respect differences among commonalities." The theme is also reflected in his talks about happiness.

Agarwal believes an understanding of human information behavior and sense-making helps us design systems and work environments that make work and life increasingly meaningful. "I aim to improve the human condition by providing insight into people and how they can best use technology and other information sources," says Agarwal. More information about Agarwal's research can be found at http://gslis.simmons.edu/blogs/naresh/publications/

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