Professor Ian Ruthven

Computer and Information Sciences

Personal statement

I am a Professor of Information Seeking and Retrieval in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences.

I work in the area of information seeking and retrieval; understanding how (and why) people search for information and how electronic systems might help them search more successfully. This brings in a wide range of research including theoretical research on the design and modelling of information access systems, empirical research on interfaces and user interaction and research on the methodology of evaluating information access systems.

Recent research has included interface design research to help children search for information, information seeking studies on information poverty within marginalised groups and studies on how people use online information to create a sense of happiness.


An information behavior theory of transitions
Ruthven Ian
Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (2021)
Untangling the concept of task in information seeking and retrieval
Soufan Ayah, Ruthven Ian, Azzopardi Leif
ICTIR 2021 - Proceedings of the 2021 ACM SIGIR International Conference on Theory of Information Retrieval The 2021 ACM SIGIR International Conference on the Theory of Information Retrieval, pp. 73–81 (2021)
Engaging interaction and long-term engagement with WhatsApp in an everyday life context : exploratory study
Martínez-Comeche Juan-Antonio, Ruthven Ian
Journal of Documentation Vol 77, pp. 825-850 (2021)
Downloading the new normal: exploring public library digital service use during COVID : some preliminary findings from Scottish data
Robinson Elaine, McMenemy David, Ruthven Ian
CILIPS Annual Conference 2021 (2021)
Fighting fires and powering steam locomotives : Distribution of control and its role in social interaction at tangible interactive museum exhibits
Clarke Loraine, Hornecker Eva, Ruthven Ian
Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI'21 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2021 (2021)
Informational features of WhatsApp in everyday life in Madrid : an exploratory study
Martínez-Comeche Juan Antonio, Ruthven Ian
Journal of Information Science (2021)

More publications


  • information retrieval
  • information seeking
  • qualitative and quantitative research methods

Professional activities

University of Pretoria
Visiting researcher
Scottish Library and Information Council (External organisation)
ISIC : The Information Behaviour Conference
Keynote/plenary speaker
Information Seeking in Context Conference Series (External organisation)
Information Processing and Management (Journal)
To be assigned

More professional activities


Downloading a new normal - privacy, exclusion, and information behaviour in public library digital services use during COVID
McMenemy, David (Principal Investigator) Ruthven, Ian (Co-investigator)
18-Jan-2020 - 17-Jan-2022
DoSSIER: Domain Specific Systems for Information, Extraction and Retrieval (H2020 MSCA)
Azzopardi, Leif (Principal Investigator) Halvey, Martin (Co-investigator) Ruthven, Ian (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2023
Understanding the Information Needs of Young First Time Mothers from Areas of Multiple Deprivation
Buchanan, Steven (Principal Investigator) Ruthven, Ian (Co-investigator)
"Information informs, guides, and empowers; but persistent barriers to access and use are societally divisive and as yet not fully understood, particularly amongst marginalised groups. Addressing enduring issues of information poverty, this project seeks to better understand the information needs of young first time mothers (YFTM) aged 21 or under from deprived areas, and associated barriers, by identifying and better understanding the: everyday information needs, seeking preferences, and challenges of YFTM; and the +/- factors influencing YFTM engagement with supportive services, and the appropriate assistive intervention points and methods.
The UK has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe, with associated conception rates correlated to multiple deprivation indexes. At risk groups are disadvantaged and disengaged, with significant health and wellbeing issues reported for both mother and child. Intervention programmes focus on early parenting needs with on-going holistic educational support considered key to long-term social inclusion/reintegration; however, there is evidence that mainstream services are failing to provide such support with significant unmet YFTM information needs reported, and overarching concerns raised regarding equity of access to information in both the physical and digital space.
A significant challenge in addressing holistic YFTM information needs relates to our limited understanding of young peoples' everyday information needs, preferences and seeking behavior generally, and more specifically, in impoverished and/or marginalized circumstances (limiting effective tailored service design and delivery considered key to access and use). There are complex and as yet not fully understood access barriers and internalised behavioural barriers to consider, the former influenced by digital divide and information literacy issues, the latter by social structures and norms; barriers that we believe put YFTM, and in turn their children, at greater risk of becoming impoverished information outsiders, living a stratified and disengaged existence. This project, recognising the importance of information access to economic and social mobility, and health and wellbeing; will comprehensively identify and investigate YFTM information needs, seeking preferences and challenges, and advance our understanding of the +/- factors influencing engagement of marginalised groups in both the physical and digital space, including appropriate assistive intervention points and strategies to not only meet immediate needs, but to foster independent lifelong learning and on-going social inclusion. Output will guide both policy (what to provide and from whom) and process (how to provide) of public information service providers (including collaborative aspects).
This project, which will bring together theories of social capital and social networks with theories and models of information behaviour to address issues of information poverty in both the physical and digital space; aligns with ESRC strategic priority influencing behaviour and informing interventions, and associated questions: how to understand behaviour and risks at multiple levels and a variety of contexts; how and why do behaviours change; and how does the interplay of child, family, community and wider society influence inequalities in wellbeing?"
01-Jan-2015 - 30-Jan-2017
Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation (ScotDigiCH)
Ruthven, Ian (Principal Investigator) Damala, Areti (Principal Investigator)
The network brings together academics from different disciplines and professionals from Scotland's key cultural organisations in order to investigate how cultural digital resources are used by diverse user groups, how to record their impact on learning, research and community engagement and how to maximize their potential.
15-Jan-2015 - 30-Jan-2016
Re-design of interactive exhibits using low cost technology for proof of concept prototypes
Ruthven, Ian (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2014 - 30-Jan-2015
Scottish ESRC Doctoral Training Centre DTG 2011 | Breslin Davda, Frances
Buchanan, Steven (Principal Investigator) Ruthven, Ian (Co-investigator) Breslin Davda, Frances (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2013 - 21-Jan-2021

More projects


Computer and Information Sciences
Livingstone Tower

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