Serendipity in human information behavior: a systematic review


Purpose: Serendipitous information discovery has become a unique and important approach to discovering and obtaining information, which has aroused a growing interest for serendipity in human information behavior. Despite numerous publications, few have systematically provided an overview of current state of serendipity research. Consequently, researchers and practitioners are less able to make effective use of existing achievements, which limits them from making advancements in this domain. Against this backdrop, we performed a systematic literature review to explore the world of serendipity and to recapitulate the current states of different research topics. Design/methodology/approach: Guided by a prior designed review protocol, this paper conducted both automatic and manual search for available studies published from January 1990 to December 2020 on seven databases. A total of 207 serendipity studies closely related to human information behavior form the literature pool. Findings: We provide an overview of distinct aspects of serendipity, that is research topics, potential benefits, related concepts, theoretical models, contextual factors and data collection methods. Based on these findings, this review reveals limitations and gaps in the current serendipity research and proposes an agenda for future research directions. Originality/value: By analyzing current serendipity research, developing a knowledge framework and providing a research agenda, this review is of significance for researchers who want to find new research questions or re-align current work, for beginners who need to quickly understand serendipity, and for practitioners who seek to cultivate serendipity in information environments.

Publication Title

Journal of Documentation