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Information overload: a concept analysis

Belabbes, Mohamed Amine; Ruthven, Ian; Moshfeghi, Yashar; Pennington, Diane


Mohamed Amine Belabbes

Ian Ruthven

Yashar Moshfeghi


Purpose: With the shift to an information-based society and to the de-centralisation of information, information overload has attracted a growing interest in the computer and information science research communities. However, there is no clear understanding of the meaning of the term, and while there have been many proposed definitions, there is no consensus. The goal of this work was to define the concept of “information overload”. In order to do so, a concept analysis using Rodgers' approach was performed. Design/methodology/approach: A concept analysis using Rodgers' approach based on a corpus of documents published between 2010 and September 2020 was conducted. One surrogate for “information overload”, which is “cognitive overload” was identified. The corpus of documents consisted of 151 documents for information overload and ten for cognitive overload. All documents were from the fields of computer science and information science, and were retrieved from three databases: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Digital Library, SCOPUS and Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA). Findings: The themes identified from the authors’ concept analysis allowed us to extract the triggers, manifestations and consequences of information overload. They found triggers related to information characteristics, information need, the working environment, the cognitive abilities of individuals and the information environment. In terms of manifestations, they found that information overload manifests itself both emotionally and cognitively. The consequences of information overload were both internal and external. These findings allowed them to provide a definition of information overload. Originality/value: Through the authors’ concept analysis, they were able to clarify the components of information overload and provide a definition of the concept.


Belabbes, M. A., Ruthven, I., Moshfeghi, Y., & Pennington, D. (2023). Information overload: a concept analysis. Journal of Documentation, 79(1), 144-159.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 3, 2022
Online Publication Date May 26, 2022
Publication Date Jan 10, 2023
Deposit Date Feb 3, 2023
Print ISSN 0022-0418
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 79
Issue 1
Pages 144-159
Keywords information science, concept analysis, cognitive overload, information overload, Information retrieval, information technology, computer science