EDRMS search behaviour: implications for records management principles and practices

Pauline Joseph

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

1103 Downloads (Pure)


This study investigates the efficacy of electronic document record management systems (EDRMS) in enabling effective capture and dissemination of corporate information. The thesis examines the degree to which these systems are designed in accordance with the records management principles outlined in ISO 15489 (International Organisation for Standardisation, 2002a, 2002b) support the effective retrieval of records by knowledge workers. It also explores the impact of work tasks and training on knowledge workers’ search behaviour.

Using the eight pillar RM principles in ISO 15489, the research explored how four of these key principles, metadata, classification schemes, retention and disposition schedules, and security permissions, were reflected in the design structure of the EDRMS. It also considered how the remaining four principles of policies, procedures, training, and auditing and monitoring supported the implementation and use of EDRMS in an organisation.

Building on the information seeking behaviour models of Ellis (1989), Meho and Tibbo (2003) and Marchionini (1995), this research hypothesised that the search behaviour model of EDRMS users would comprise seven search process stages and that different search activities would be performed at each stage.

A constructivist research paradigm and the case study methodology was used to collect the data, using multiple research tools such as interviews, questionnaires and protocol analysis. Four government institutions participated in the research. They were operating three different EDRMS. The participants in each organisation comprised one records manager and ten EDRMS users.

Interviews conducted with the four records managers revealed how each organisation implemented the eight RM principles. An examination of internal RM documentation and demonstrations of the EDRMS also formed part of the study.

A combination of interview and questionnaires were used to investigate the search behaviours of EDRMS users, and, protocol analysis was used to observe how each of the 40 users conducted a simple and difficult search.

The user-related research findings validate the hypothesised EDRMS search behaviour model, demonstrating a sequenced approach to EDRMS search. They provide insights into what knowledge workers consider to be simple and difficult searches and the processes users employ to resolve difficult searches. Further, the findings indicate that work tasks and training do affect knowledge workers’ search behaviours.

The findings reveal the eight RM principles implemented in the sampled organisations partially support their knowledge workers’ EDRMS search behaviours. However, there was evidence of insufficient recognition of user needs when developing EDRMS systems. The RM principles requiring refinement relate to: 1) policies, 2) procedures and standards; 3) metadata; 4) the classification scheme; 5) training; and 6) monitoring and auditing. The findings suggest that an information culture with visible senior management support is essential to encourage good information management behaviours amongst employees and improve their EDRMS search experiences. Recommendations on how records managers might improve these six RM principles are discussed in the thesis.

A major contribution of this study is the development of the EDRMS search behaviour model which will offer considerable guidance to the records management discipline. For the first time, RM professionals are positioned with an understanding of the seven search processes and varied search activities EDRMS users engage and exhibit when they start a search in the EDRMS. Given the shift in recordkeeping responsibilities from RM professionals to knowledge workers, this understanding provides insights for tailoring and delivering training programs that meet users’ task requirements. It also provides guidance to simplifying RM tools like classification schemes, to enable ease of registration and search of corporate information by knowledge workers. The research offers useful guidance on possible revisions to ISO 15489, to support ultimate usage by organisational members.

This research identifies six possible future research topics that would extend or validate the current findings centered on the knowledge workers’: training; tasks; preferred search styles; experiences working with classification schemes. Including; how their motivational and affect factors will influence their EDRMS searching?

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010


Dive into the research topics of 'EDRMS search behaviour: implications for records management principles and practices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this