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Search delegation, synthesists and expertise on social media

Matthews, Paul

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Dr Paul Matthews
Senior Lecturer in Information and Data Science


Background. Social media often adds a layer of intermediation between sources and information consumer, with users outsourcing some of the information work to others. Social media “synthesists” have been identified as a group of volunteer information providers fulfilling this role.
Approach. Through a review of evidence from philosophy, information science and knowledge management, this paper explores the implications of cognitive outsourcing, presents quality standards for synthesis and asks how well synthesists meet these. In the process, the role of intermediary is discussed, along with the non-specialist status of the synthesist.
Results. Findings show that social media synthesists fulfil a useful role and that their importance in terms of knowledge translation is clear. While their synthesis quality may fall far short of LIS standards, there are a number of ways that some quality issues can be addressed, including the involvement of the information profession itself on the same social platforms.
Contribution. Through a comparison of synthesis best practice with current informal information behaviour on social media, the paper draws attention to quality issues and new opportunities to address them. This represents an attempt to identify ways to bridge formal and emerging, informal information markets.


Matthews, P. (2014). Search delegation, synthesists and expertise on social media. LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal, 24(2), 97-107

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 1, 2014
Deposit Date Apr 9, 2015
Publicly Available Date Mar 15, 2016
Journal LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research E-Journal
Print ISSN 1058-6768
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 2
Pages 97-107
Keywords social media, synthesis, knowledge brokerage, epistemology, information sharing, infomediaries, cognitive outsourcing
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Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This article was originally published in LIBRES, December 2014. It can be found online here:


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