knowledge project

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License by Dr Dominic Hurst is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Follow me on Twitter

Knowledge encounters study: early data

With participants now recording their knowledge encounters here is some really early data arising from 28 encounters recorded:

What 1 in 4 encounters involve codified knowledge in a personalised form – research, scholarly or practice based knowledge that is passed on by individuals.

About 1 in 5 encounters involved some form of process or policy knowledge

And a little less involved codified knowledge – directly encountering research, scholarly or practice based knowledge rather than it being passed through someone else

HowNearly 6 in 10 encounters were shared verbally with one quarter through writing. But some are encountering new learning visually and through internal reflection.

WhoDentists are getting their information and other new knowledge from all sorts of places. A third involve fellow practitioners and almost 1 in 5 involves their employer. 14% comes from researchers and 11% from educators. But patients and non-practitioner colleagues share knowledge with dentists too.

I’m really grateful to the many dentists in general practice who are contributing their time towards this study and helping to build a better picture of how dentists acquire and build their knowledge in practice. I am still recruiting and welcome anybody in practice in the UK to take part.

Dominic HurstIf you fancy having a go at recording some knowledge encounters have a go here.

All the best,


Recruiting: dentists who will share their knowledge encounters

As part of my DPhil research at Oxford I am hoping to recruit general dental practitioners from the UK who would be willing to record their knowledge encounters for a week and be interviewed for between 30 minutes and one hour about one or more of the encounters.

You can see what is involved in recording knowledge encounters here by working through a few simulations.

And as this is an educational activity for those participating everyone who takes part in recording their encounters and the interview afterwards is awarded 2 hours of verifiable CPD.

Below is a 3 minute video introducing the study. I hope you’ll feel motivated to join the endeavour and get in touch via the form below.

Ethics and an ethnographic dimension to my DPhil

Ethics: Great news!CUREC banner image for screen

The web form and interview study was given ethics clearance by the Medical Sciences Interdivisional Research Ethics Committee this week.

The ethics code is MS-IDREC-C1-2015-088.

Ethnography addition

Another development is that I will add an ethnographic component to my DPhil project, which is very exciting. Ethnography is an approach to studying people in their natural setting through observation, interviews and other methods such as documentary analysis.

I have been inspired by ethnographies conducted in healthcare such as that by John Gabbay and Andre Le May that led to their concept of Mindlines and Annemarie Mol’s fascinating ethnography of atherosclerosis that resulted in a book called The Body Multiple.

..”ethnography offers a holistic way of exploring the relationship between the different kinds of evidence that underpin clinical practice”

The purpose of the ethnographic component of the thesis is to research how dentists, their teams, patients and third parties such as salespeople interact with, create and use knowledge in their natural setting.

It is well suited to my enquiry into the knowledge that dentists use in practice. Jan Savage argues that “ethnography is particularly valuable because of the attention it gives to context and its synthesis of findings from different methods. Moreover, ethnography offers a holistic way of exploring the relationship between the different kinds of evidence that underpin clinical practice.”

My intention is to conduct the ethnographies in two different-sized practices in London. One practice owner has already offered her practice as case study, for which I am very grateful.

Evidence Live 2015: Knowledge encounters poster

Evidence Live is the gathering in Oxford of folk interested in promoting and developing evidence-based healthcare. This year it takes place on April 13th-14th.Evidence Live 15

I will present a poster of my systematic review looking into the sources of information and experiential knowledge that healthcare workers use in practice. It was from this review that I developed the concept of “knowledge encounters” and the multifaceted classification of these that I am using in this mixed methods study.

I’ve uploaded a pdf of the poster, which you can see below.

A mixed studies systematic review of knowledge encounters

Web form usability testing

The web form that I have developed for this project is based on some theoretical work I did as part of a systematic review.

In brief, the research project will ask dentists to record as many of the times when they learn something new from information or an experience over three 7-day periods. I call these occasions “knowledge encounters” and I’ll ask some dentists to take part in 30 minute interviews to gain a deeper understanding of what the encounters meant to them.

The web form is designed to help dentists record the encounters and categorise them in 30-60 seconds.

I have used the form with some dentists but would like to recruit 5-10 willing participants to try it out and feedback on the experience.

Knowledge encounters on computer and phone

What would be involved?

  1. When you get in touch, I will assign you a personalised web form for a training exercise (see below) and for testing the form over a day or two.
  2. Before recording encounters with new information or experience, I would like participants to work through 5 simulated knowledge encounters online. These shouldn’t take more than a minute each to do.
  3. After that, I will ask you to use the web form either on your phone, tablet or computer to record the encounters you had over the course of a day – or more if you’re willing 🙂
  4. Finally, I will ask for your feedback via another web form. This is about usability testing – so I am looking to identify problems with using the web form.

I can’t offer much in return at this stage other than the pleasure of helping progress the science of evidence-based practice, but if you go on to take part in the study itself I will feedback your patterns of knowledge encounters.

You can find out more about the project here and get in touch via the contact form there too.



Dominic Hurst

Storifying academic discussion about knowledge encounters

A couple of weeks ago Trish Greenhalgh (@trishgreenhalgh) publicised the blog I’d written about knowledge encounters and I had a twitter exchange with Anita Kothari (@anitarena) in Ontario about them. She went on to use the blog post in her grad class. Here is a storify presentation of the exchange.

What is a “knowledge encounter”?

I was recently challenged by my supervisor to explain why I use the term “knowledge encounter” in my work. The story of how I arrived at it was actually one of frustration perhaps 12-18 months ago as I searched for terms in the literature that would best describe the experiences clinicians have of discovering new knowledge. Here is a draft of my explanation that will in due course find its way into my thesis. It may also help those who participate in the study to understand what it is I am trying to get them to capture.


The word encounter is used throughout this thesis as a means to describe the occasions when clinicians happen upon or discover new information or experience something new or in a new way. The intention is to reflect the way in which mindlines [1] appear to be formed, with experiences and information often happened upon in non-linear and unexpected ways, in various contexts, as well as through so-called “knowledge transfer” attempts.

The more familiar terms in the literature around knowledge transfer, translation, exchange and sharing were not sufficient to allow description of the totality of the experiences clinicians were reported to have in coming across new information and experiences [unpublished systematic review]. Elements of these may surface in some of the occasions when clinicians come across new information e.g. as a part of a “knowledge translation” project they may read some guidelines; they may happen across information or an experience as someone shares it with them; they may indeed exchange information or experiences with a colleague. But none of these terms alone were able to incorporate the multitude of ways in which clinicians come across new information and experiences that were identified in the systematic review. Encounter was a word that kept surfacing in my mind to describe what I was seeing.

Encounter is defined as “An unexpected or casual meeting with someone or something” in the Oxford Dictionaries [2]. The Random House Dictionary (accessed via the word is defined as “To come upon or meet with, especially unexpectedly” [3]. Merriam-Webster defines an encounter as “a usually brief experience with another person” or “an occasion when you deal with or experience something” [4]. Although these suggest that the encounter is an unexpected event the second definition does not suggest that it is always unexpected. And although it may usually be brief it isn’t always. Furthermore an encounter may be with a person or something allowing for that thing to be a journal article, a procedure or internal thought process.

The word encounter also has numerous synonyms or related words that help to clarify what I intend in using the word. Gathered from Roget’s print and online thesauri [5, 6] these include:

  • discover
  • meet
  • meeting
  • experience
  • find
  • detect
  • bump into (happen upon)
  • come upon
  • stumble (happen upon)
  • detect
  • feel
  • find
  • talk (discussion)
  • turn up (be discovered)

Encounter is of course commonly used in the context of a medical encounter [7-9], which is often a planned event even if the actual content of the event is perhaps uncertain. Thus encounter seems appropriate as a way to describe the many ways in which clinicians come across, happen upon, or plan to discover new information or experiences. This is, I believe, in keeping with the type of learning that Gabbay and Le May suggest is taking place as clinicians form their mindlines.

“Knowledge” versus “information or experience” encounter

But why “knowledge” rather than “information or experience” encounters?

Quoting Bell, Tsoukas and Vladimouri give the following distinction between information and knowledge:

“Information is a context-based arrangement of items whereby relations between them are shown (e.g. the subject index of a book). And knowledge is the judgement of the significance of events and items, which comes from a particular context and/or theory (e.g. the construction of a thematic index by a reader of a book).” [10]

I recognise that clinicians will encounter information or their own experiences by this definition. But within the encounter they will make a judgement of the significance of the information or experience and therein turn the encounter into one of knowledge. Thus “knowledge” does not refer to the object of the encounter but to what happens to the object within the encounter.

I would therefore define a knowledge encounter as: an expected or unexpected circumstance in which an individual comes across new information, or experiences something new, and in doing so makes a judgement (consciously or not) about the significance of that information or experience.


  1. Gabbay J, Le May Ae. Practice-based evidence for healthcare : clinical mindlines. Abingdon: Routledge; 2011.
  2. Oxford Dictionaries. Encounter. 2015. Accessed 07/02/2015 2015.
  3. Random House Inc. Encounter. 2015. Accessed 07/02/2015 2015.
  4. Merriam-Webster. Encounter. 2015. Accessed 07/02/2015 2015.
  5. Roget PM, Kirkpatrick EM, Roget PMRstoEw, phrases. Roget’s thesaurus. New ed. / prepared by Betty Kirkpatrick. ed. London: Penguin; 1998.
  6. Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus. Encounter. 2009.
  7. Greene MG, Adelman RD, Charon R, Friedmann E. Concordance between physicians and their older and younger patients in the primary care medical encounter. The Gerontologist. 1989;29(6):808-13.
  8. Moumjid N, Gafni A, Bremond A, Carrere M-O. Shared decision making in the medical encounter: are we all talking about the same thing? Medical Decision Making. 2007.
  9. Lazare A. Shame and humiliation in the medical encounter. Archives of Internal Medicine. 1987;147(9):1653-8.
  10. Tsoukas H, Vladimirou E. What is organizational knowledge? Journal of management studies. 2001;38(7):973-93.
%d bloggers like this: