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Strathclyde researchers win award for first-time mothers study

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde have won an international award for their study of young first-time mothers seeking information and support online.

The team from Strathclyde’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences has received the Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) Best Paper Award for 2019.

The researchers - Professor Ian Ruthven, of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, Dr Cara Jardine, of the School of Social Work & Social Policy and Professor Steven Buchanan, formerly of Computer and Information Sciences – published their paper in ASIS&T’s journal.

The study explored the ways in which young first‐time mothers express their information and support needs in online forums, with particular reference to the emotional content of their posts.
Professor Ruthven said: “This paper was part of a larger project working to understand the information needs of young first-time mothers. We would like to pay tribute to these young women whose stories and experiences made this study possible. We are very grateful to the jury panel, our colleagues at JASIS&T and the kind and constructive reviewers whose input enhanced our work”

The researchers examined the emotional content of posts to online forums made by young - aged between 14 and 21 - first‐time mothers. They sought to identify the emotions expressed in the posts and how these indicated ‘information poverty’ for the mothers.

Using textual analyses, the researchers classified the emotions expressed in the posts across three main themes:

  • interaction, involving feelings of isolation, judgement and being pressurised
  • response, encompassing anger, frustration, depression, happiness, love and excitement
  • preoccupation, involving worry, self-doubt, confusion and fear.

The study showed that many requests for information by young first‐time mothers were motivated by negative emotions. This would have implications for how moderators of online news groups respond to online request for help and for understanding of support for vulnerable young parents.


The paper was selected as the winner based on the criteria of contribution, professional merit; and presentation quality.

Award judges said the research had “practical significance for online moderators to respond to…requests to help young first-time mothers.”

They added that the paper presented a “very clear outlining of the research questions investigated, detail of methodology provided and thorough discussion and support for findings and their implications in relation to important societal concern.”

The research team will be presented with the award at ASIS&T’s annual meeting in Melbourne in October.