Information Research, Vol. 7 No. 3, April 2002,

The development of the information management research area

Elena Macevičiūtė & T.D. Wilson (Visiting Professor)
Högskolan i Borås
Borås, Sweden

In the 1980s information management was emergent and perceived by some to be simply a re-write of traditional librarianship. However, it has continued to thrive and much of what is now included is far removed even from modern information science, although information management draws upon ideas from both librarianship and information science. In one form or another it is likely to persist in the future, since information problems are likely to persist in organisations. The means for resolving the problems may change, but the need to understand those problems and develop solutions will remain.


The ideas of the information society and of information as the key resource for the development of new industries emerged in the 1970s and 80s. In the late 1970s, the US Paperwork Reduction Act (Commission on Federal Paperwork, 1977) led to a recognition that the production of information by bidders for government contracts was an unbearable cost, and the cost of handling that information at the Federal government level was also onerous.

Out of this emerged the idea that information is a resource. That is, it has potential value for an organisation and, as a result, what information resources exist should be known to the organisation (information mapping became a buzz-phrase of the time), that the costs of acquiring, storing, manipulating and using information needed to be known, and that organisational budgets should recognise these costs.

The consequences of the emergence of Information Management for research were significant: the economics of information, which, until then, had been a relatively insignificant part of economics, attained a new importance. Previously, economics had factored information out of its equations - in the market, everyone was assumed to have perfect information about that market. That is manifestly untrue, and a new field - asymmetric information - was introduced into economics.

Secondly, the information content of information systems became important: previously, data bases were just that - they consisted largely of the numbers management needs to control an organisation, such as production figures in a manufacturing organisation. The recognition that most information produced in an organisation is text rather than numbers led to work on building systems that could handle text, and a greater interest in the information systems community of the role of information retrieval.

Thirdly, it was recognised that effective systems need to be built according to the needs of the information user, rather than the convenience of the information producer, if the information is to be presented in the most appropriate way and organised in the most accessible fashion.

Finally information policy and information strategy became key terms and the need to have such policies and strategies, at national, local and organisational level was recognised.

Four decades have passed since the emergence of information management as a research field. During this period it has been developed by scholars and practitioners all over the world. In addition, a tremendous change in information handling and communication technology has occurred. Empirical research in the areas of economics, management, organisational theory, information systems, library and information science served as a basis for further theoretical development in these fields. All this had a significant influence on information management work and research. The last decade was especially interesting as many changes that have been accumulated throughout years have manifested themselves explicitly and were rooted in the academic environment.

The aim of our article is to reveal the change of the information management research area during this past decade (from 1989 to 2000).

The article consists of the background overview of the discussions about information management and information management research contents, description of the method of research article analysis, presentation and discussion of the results, and conclusion.


The content and scope of information management has been under close scrutiny by researchers and practitioners from several fields (business and management, organisation research, information systems, information and communication technology, public administration, communication, information and librarianship) for a long time. Lately, authors trying to draw a line between information management and knowledge management renewed the discussions (Rowley, 1998; Kirk, 1999; Davenport & Prusak, 2000). The change of the profession under the impact of new technology, globalisation of markets, and increasing social and economic pressures is evident in the writings of library and information science (LIS) professionals, but it is expressed practically in the same words by the representatives of business and computer fields. The LIS representatives advocate stronger orientation towards the perspective of management in new flexible organisations and use of technology in them (Dressang & Robbins, 1999). In the business field information management is seen as a higher management level function, especially when it is labelled as knowledge management. Mintzberg (1980) has described information roles of managers and sees management as an information intensive job. There is a growing understanding of information management significance for all kinds of senior executives in a vast range of business and management related literature. Information management programmes are found in business and management schools as well as in schools and departments of librarianship and information science.. Moreover, computer professionals, information systems designers, and (IT) specialists for businesses are now more concerned about the "necessity to study how managers utilise... information" (Bruns et al., 1993), "thinking about information" content, "organising and utilising data" (Lundberg, 1996), and adapting to the knowledge world by incorporating new responsibilities for strategic thinking" (Korn/Ferry Int., 2000).

There are numerous attempts to define the framework for information management. The concepts largely depend on the contents put into the words "Information Management". It is not only the concepts of "information" as such, but the multiple meanings of the phrase, emphasis of its elements, or the word order as well as the scientific perspective. The phrase is also used to mean something other than what the LIS field considers to be the management of information resources. For example, it is used as an abbreviation for: the management of IT, information systems management, management information systems, etc. The meaning of the phrase is even more clouded by the emergence of new, related terms, such as "knowledge management", which in many cases has an identical meaning to information management (Rowley, 1998) or sometimes means just library and information studies in general (see, Martin, 1999). Many authors have noticed this. Reviewing the newest literature we still can find more than enough concepts of information management, but in fact some coherence can be traced through the variety of sources and authors' opinions, especially those who work outside IT and computer sciences and have LIS or managerial backgrounds.

Rowley (1998) proposes four different levels of information management: information retrieval, information systems, information contexts, and information environments. Effective information management needs to address issues at all of these levels. Choo (1998) defines "information management as a cycle of processes that support the organisation's learning activities: identifying information needs, acquiring information, organising and storing information, developing information products and services, distributing information, and using information". Kirk (1999) summarises the main information management roles based on Braman's concepts of information developed in the area of information policy studies.

The summary of the concepts of Braman is as follows:

From this, Kirk derives a hierarchy of the definitions of information management as: IT systems, information resource management, information management as aligning information strategy and business strategy and integrating strategy formation and information (Kirk, 1999).

There are only a few authors who have discussed information management in the field of research and education. Andertone (1986), Lytle (1988), and Wilson (1997) present first reflections on the subject and note the confusion over the educational base of information management as well as the distinct differences from the traditional LIS and information science education. Fairer-Wessels (1997) has done an extended review of literature on the educational issues and comes to the conclusion that the present paradigm of information management "over-specialisation" has resulted in a fragmented approach with various focuses on one or another component: information processing, management information systems, or managing IT. She argues for a more holistic paradigm in information management studies to reflect the inter-disciplinarity of the field.

Looking into the field of information systems research one will see many more attempts of self-reflection starting with Kreiber and van Horn in 1971 and finishing with Claver et al. in 2000. The authors of the latter study analysed the contents of two journals Information & Management and Management Information Systems Quarterly between 1981 and 1977.

The definition of information management chosen for this study is that proposed by Wilson (1997):

The application of management principles to the acquisition, organization, control, dissemination and use of information relevant to the effective operation of organizations of all kinds. 'Information' here refers to all types of information of value, whether having their origin inside or outside the organization, including data resources, such as production data; records and files related, for example, to the personnel function; market research data; and competitive intelligence from a wide range of sources. Information management deals with the value, quality, ownership, use and security of information in the context of organizational performance.

Data collection

In 1989 Wilson made an overview of three main journals publishing articles on information management. At that time the core journals in the field were:

This work was the origin of the idea for a study that would reveal what changes have occurred in the field during the last decade. The easiest way to establish the changes would be to compare the categories that emerged in 1989 with the categories that emerge in a new study. Consequently, a survey of the contents of the core journals was repeated in 2000. However the group of journals has changed considerably. First, Information Management Review ceased publication. Therefore, other publications were included in the core group. The main feature for selection was the profile of research articles. It had to match more or less the profile of the three journals of 1989, i.e., most of the articles should deal with information activity in organisations. Therefore, journals such as Information Management and Processing were not included as the bulk of its articles are on information retrieval issues and only 5% deal with other information-related topics.

Six journals published in 2000 were selected:

The journal Information & Management displays an irregular pattern of publication, a volume can consist of 4 or 8 issues, cover a part of the year or spread over two years. A full volume of Information & Management in 2000 consists of 6 issues, but two issues of volume 38 were also published in 2000, the articles received in 1999 and the beginning of 2000 appear in the next two issues (3 and 4). Therefore an exception was made for this journal and the articles from 10 issues (vol. 37, issue 1-6, vol. 38, issue 1-4) were included. The International Journal of Information Management appears bi-monthly, the rest are quarterlies.

The contents of the research articles were analysed using the headings that emerged in 1989. Literature reviews and editorials were omitted. New headings or sub-headings were added when necessary. The headings indicate the main subjects of the article. Not more than three headings were assigned to an article if the subject was complex. In addition, the research methods and the institution of the authors were studied paying attention to the affiliation, country, and number of authors of the article.

Results and discussion

The overview of the research field in the 1980s revealed the following categories:

Table 1 : Categories found by Wilson in 1989
Application areas
  • banking
  • business
  • government
  • health services
  • industry
  • manufacturing
Artificial intelligence
  • expert systems
  • knowledge-based systems
Economics of information
  • cost-benefit analysis
  • fee-based services
  • information and productivity
  • information economy
  • value-added processes
  • information industry
Education for information management
Information management functions
  • aiding business strategy
  • chief information officers
  • computer-based records management
  • corporate information resources
  • information mapping
  • information resource management
  • manpower aspects
  • online information systems
  • organisational aspects
  • strategic monitoring
Information policy
  • national information policies
Information use and users
  • end-user computing
  • information needs
Information systems
  • database systems
  • data administration
  • decision support systems
  • group decision support
  • design
  • implementation
  • legal aspects
  • management information systems
  • organisational impact
  • strategies
  • user involvement
Information technology
  • management aspects
    • competitive advantage
    • computer disaster strategies
    • decisions on choices
    • economic implications
    • information centres
    • legal implications
    • marketing and sales potential
    • office automation
    • transborder data flow
  • technology aspects
    • electronic publishing
    • laser optics
    • office automation
    • optical character recognition
    • personal computers
    • telecommunications and IT
    • videotex
Systems theory

Summarising the previous table five main categories can be derived:

A total of 150 articles was chosen for analysis in 2000. Almost one third of the articles was published in ten issues of Information & Management, the lowest number was published in Information and Organisation, which publishes two to three articles an issue. The rest usually have four to five articles an issue, and the difference in the number of articles depends on the frequency of the journal (IJIM - six annual issues, JSIS - a double issue (no. 2-3) in 2000).

Title Number of articles
Information Economics and Policy (IEP) 20
Information & Management (IM) 48
Information and Organisation (IO) 11
International Journal of Information Management (IJIM) 33
Journal of Strategic Information Systems (JSIS) 15
MIS Quarterly (MQ) 23

Table 2 : The number of articles in selected journals


The comparison of subject categories found in 2000 (see Appendix 1) with those from the study of 1989 reveals new or expanded areas. However, most of the research areas present in 1980s remain - except that there is a significant reduction in attention to systems theory, although a systemic approach is often applied, and the interest in AI applications declines considerably (only two articles were found).

The main changes can be summarised as follows:

Each of the selected journals has, of course, its area of interest. The dominating subjects are listed in Table 3. However, in many cases the articles deal with complicated subjects that cannot be characterised by one category. The secondary categories applied to define the contents cover all the main categories for every journal.

Title Dominating subjects
Information Economics and Policy Information policy: telecommunications (13 articles)
Economics of information (4 articles)
Information & Management Information systems (22)
Information networks (7)
Information management functions (5)
Information use and users (3)
Information and Organisation Organisational learning and culture (7)
Information systems (3)
International Journal of Information Management Information management functions (9)
Information systems (8)
Information networks (4)
Information use and users (4)
Education for information (3)
Journal of Strategic Information Systems Information systems (6)
Information technology (4)
Organisational culture (2)
MIS Quarterly Information systems (9 articles)
Information technology (7)
Information professionals (4)

Table 3: Profiles of analysed journals (only one main subject category of those found in the year 2000 journals is used)

Research methods


The investigated articles were written by 315 authors. 39 articles (26%) were published by a single author, the rest by two or more authors. The highest proportion of the articles written by more than one author is in JSIS (13 of 15 - 87%), IM (41 of 48 - 85%) and MQ (18 of 23 - 78%) followed by IJIM (23 of 33 - 70%), IO (7 of 11 - 63%) and IEP (10 of 20 - 50%).

The majority of the authors were affiliated with universities. 15 came from business-based research units and 7 from other research institutions. Most of those affiliated to universities come from Business, Management, Finance, and Economic departments (163 -55%) and from Computing and Information Systems departments (95 - 32%), approximately 20 authors (7%) belong to Information Management or LIS departments. In fact, there is no big difference in the journals as far as the subject affiliation of the authors is concerned. The only exception may be IJIM, which publishes more articles written by staff from Information Management and LIS departments.

Regarding the country of origin of the authors there are three American dominated journals: MQ (48 of 62 authors come from USA - 77%), IM (58 of 102 - 57%), JSIS (17 of 32 - 53). Less dominated is IO (8 of 21 - 38) and IEP (7 of 33 - 21%). Authors from the United Kingdom dominate IJIM (32 of 66 - 48%). However the range of the representatives from different countries is increasing.

USA 14345.4
UK 4614.6
South Korea154.8
Hong Kong134.1
New Zealand10.3
Saudi Arabia10.3
Total315 99.7*

Table 4 : Country of origin of authors
(* Note: rounding error)

IM has published articles written by the authors from 13 countries, IJIM and IEP from 11 countries each, MQ from 8, IJSIS and IO from 7 countries each.

Thus, we see that the authors are coming not only from more diverse disciplines (e.g., management, computer science, information retrieval, information systems, library and information science, consultancy sectors, economics, etc.) but from wider geographical spread (Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, India, Brunei, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia) but US and UK researchers continue to dominate.


In the 1980s information management was emergent and perceived by some to be simply a re-write of traditional librarianship. However, it has continued to thrive and much of what is now included is far removed even from modern information science, although information management draws upon ideas from both librarianship and information science. In one form or another it is likely to persist in the future, since information problems are likely to persist in organizations. The means for resolving the problems may change, but the need to understand those problems and develop solutions will remain.

There are strong pressures at the moment, from policy organizations such as the European Commission, from the consultancy companies such as Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), from hardware manufacturers (mainly IBM), and, sadly, from the research opportunists in every field, to subsume information management within 'knowledge management'. We believe, however, that information management has a stronger theoretical base than knowledge management and that the latter is simply a label, designed, like other labels, for presentational purposes, to impress the consumers of consultancy companies by giving the impression of something new and serious.

Perhaps we shall re-visit this topic in a few years' time to discover whether we are right.


Appendix 1

Categories characterising publications in information management area (2000)

Application area

Artificial intelligence

Economics of information

Education for Information Management

Information management

Information networks

Information professionals

Information systems

Information technology

Information use and users

Knowledge management


Telecommunication industry

Theory and research methods

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How to cite this paper:

Macevičiūtė, Elena and Wilson, T.D. (2002) "The development of the information management research area" Information Research, 7 (3)   Available at:

© the authors, 2002.    Updated: 30th March 2002

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