Critical Incident Technique

  • The critical incident technique can be used as the basis of a questionnaire or interview
  • It has been extensively used in health library and knowledge service (LKS) impact studies

Using the technique 

  • Users provide details of a specific instance or use of a service
  • They then answer questions relating to the instance or use
  • In this way LKS staff collect details of specific rather than general impacts

Example of the technique 

It has been used to collect data on how information from a literature search was used.

For example, “We recently sent you information on the use of honey for preventing infection post-surgery.  May I ask how you have used this information? 

The information could be provided in a descriptive manner.  Alternatively you could use specific outcome measures, for example: 

Did you use the information for: 

a) a particular patient?
b) service planning?
c) developing clinical guidelines? 

Other uses of the technique 

This approach is used for 

  1. The generic impact questionnaire 
  2. The impact of clinical librarians questionnaire 

Further information 

Yeoman , A , Cooper , J , Armstrong , C , Fenton , R , Lonsdale , R , Spink , S , Urquhart , C , Thomas , R , Barker , A & Light , A (2003). Critical incident technique and explicitation interviewing in studies of information behaviour.  Library and Information Science Research, 25(1): 63-88. , 10.1016/S0740-8188(02)00166-