Marcia J. Bates

Marcia J. Bates
Residence Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Fields Information science
Institutions University of California, Los Angeles
Alma mater Pomona College, University of California, Berkeley
Known for Work on information seeking behavior, search strategy, subject access to information, and user-centered design of information systems
Notable awards American Association for the Advancement for Science Fellow, American Society for Information Science Research Award and Award of Merit, American Society for Information Science "Best Journal of ASIS Paper of the Year Award," Frederick G. Kilgour Award.[1]

Marcia J. Bates (born 1942) is Professor VI Emerita of Information Studies in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles.


Bates received a M.L.S in 1967 and a Ph.D (1972), both from the University of California, Berkeley.[2]

She previously taught at the University of Maryland, College Park and was tenured at the University of Washington in 1981 before joining the faculty at UCLA. Bates has published on information seeking behavior, search strategy, subject access in manual and automated systems, and user-centered design of information retrieval systems. She is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a recipient of the American Society for Information Science Research Award, 1998, Award of Merit, 2005, and has twice received the American Society for Information Science "Best Journal of ASIS Paper of the Year Award," in 1980 and 2000. In 2001 she received the Frederick G. Kilgour Award for Research in Library and Information Technology.[3]

Bates' early work dealt with searching success and failure in library catalogs. She initially became known for her articles on information search tactics, that is, techniques and heuristics for improving retrieval success in information systems.[4]

She was Editor-in-Chief of the Third Edition of the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences (Taylor & Francis, 2010).[5]


Many of Bates' contributions have been in the area of user-centered information system design. Several of her papers have been widely cited and used, including articles on her concepts of "berrypicking," of "information search tactics," and the "cascade of interactions" in the user-system interface.[6][7][8]

In conjunction with the Getty Research Institute, and other Getty agencies, she has studied humanities information seeking online extensively, producing six articles on the work.[9][10] In subject access, as early as 1985, she designed and argued for a "cluster thesaurus" that would bring together all the syntactic and semantic variants of a concept under each concept. Searches could then match on any term in the cluster, with the searcher able to select subsets of terms for further searching. This was also known as the "front-end system mind."[11]

Bates takes an evolutionary approach to the development of human and animal information and knowledge.She argues that "information is the pattern of organization of matter and energy." The recognition and transmission of these patterns has developed evolutionarily, leading to the point where human beings have become able to recognize quite sophisticated patterns, such as language constructions, and patterns of behavior such as "bait and switch." She also defines types of information useful for the information professions, such as "embodied information," "encoded information," "embedded information," and "recorded information."[12][13] which marks a change from the definition of information in communication theory. The communication model sees information as the flow and exchange of a message, originating from one speaker, mind, or source and received by another. According to Ronald Day, "Implicit in this standard model of information are such notions as the intentionality of the speaker, the self-evident 'presence' of that intention in his or her words, a set of hearers or users who receive the information and who demonstrate the correctness of that reception in action or use, and the freedom of choice in regards to the speaker's ability to say one thing rather than another, as well as even the receivers freedom of choice to receive one message rather than another in the marketplace of ideas."[14]

Bates claims (drawing on S. Goonatilake) that there are three fundamental channels of information: genetic, neural-cultural, and exosomatic.[15]

In response to the rapid transformations in libraries and in information science, Bates has also written on the nature of the information disciplines.[16] The design of the encyclopedia she and Maack edited also reflects her arguments about the nature of the information disciplines.[17]

According to Google Scholar Bates' work has been cited over 4600 times.[18]


  1. Cited. (2005). American Libraries, (10). 59
  2. "Marcia J. Bates". Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  3. "Marcia J. Bates". Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  4. Bates, Marcia J. (1979). Information Search Tactics. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 30(4): 205-214.
  6. Bates, Marcia J. (1989). "The Design of Browsing and Berrypicking Techniques for the Online Search Interface." Online Review 13(5): 407–424
  7. Bates, Marcia J. (1990). "Where Should the Person Stop and the Information Search Interface Start?" Information Processing & Management 26: 575–591.
  8. Bates, Marcia J. (2002). "The Cascade of Interactions in the Digital Library Interface." Information Processing and Management 38: 381–400.
  9. Bates, Marcia J. (1996). "The Getty End-User Online Searching Project in the Humanities: Report No. 6: Overview and Conclusions." College & Research Libraries 57(6): 514–523.
  10. Bates, Marcia J. (1994). "The Design of Databases and Other Information Resources for Humanities Scholars: The Getty Online Searching Project Report No. 4." Online & CDROM Review 18(6): 331–340
  11. Bates, Marcia J. (1986). "Subject Access in Online Catalogs: A Design Model." Journal of the American Society for Information Science 37(6): 357–376.
  12. Bates, Marcia J. (2005). "Information and Knowledge: An Evolutionary Framework for Information Science." Information Research, 10 (4) paper 239, 2005 [available at ]
  13. Bates, Marcia J. (2016) "Fundamental Forms of Information," In: Marcia J. Bates. Information and the Information Professions. Ketchikan Press, Berkeley, CA, pp. 36-65.
  14. Day, Ronald E. (2001). The Modern Invention of Information: Discourse, History, and Power. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, p. 38.
  15. Bates, Marcia J. (2006). "Fundamental Forms of Information." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57(8):1044
  16. Bates, Marcia J. (1999). "The Invisible Substrate of Information Science." Journal of the American Society for Information Science 50(12): 1043–1050.
  17. Bates, Marcia J. (2007). "Defining the information disciplines in encyclopedia development." Information Research, 12(4) paper colis29. [Available at]
  18. User profile for Marcia Bates. September 20, 2016
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