Taking Chatman back to prison: Rethinking the theory of life in the round

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – This paper serves to test the validity of Chatman’s theory of “Life Lived in the Round” within a modern prison context. In particular, it examines propositions Five and Six of her theory.

Design/methodology/approach – Data regarding the information-seeking practices of Australian adult female and male prisoners from maximum-, medium- and minimum-security facilities was gathered through 106 surveys and 27 semi-structured interviews. Participants’ information-seeking from sources internal and external to the “small world” of the prison was described. The information behaviours of the participants were examined against Chatman’s theory of “Life in the Round” to determine its applicability in the prison context.

Findings – The data gathered does not support Chatman’s theory of “Life Lived in the Round”, despite that theory being developed in a prison context. Neither Proposition Five nor Proposition Six of Chatman’s theory can be supported when examined in the light of the current data.

Research limitations/implications – The inability of the data to support Chatman’s theory requires a reassessment of the applicability of the theory, at least to the prison context. As the theory was generated in part from a prison study, the foundational understandings of the theory could be questioned as a result of this current research.

Originality/value – Although Chatman’s theory has been examined against the information behaviours of other “Small World” communities, none of these studies have taken the theory back to the prison context from which the theory was developed. This study is also novel as its findings do not support Chatman’s theory, in contrast to other previously published examinations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-987
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number4
Early online date14 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Taking Chatman back to prison: Rethinking the theory of life in the round'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this