Purpose – The paper utilizes Whitley’s (1984; 2000) theory of the intellectual and social organization of
the sciences and builds on research carried on by (Aarek et. al, 1992; Vakkari, 1996; Rochester and
Vakkari, 2004 and Åström, 2008), to analyze both intellectual and institutional characteristics of Arabic
library and information science.
Design/methodology/approach – Data derived from a content analysis of sampled research articles
published in seven core peer-reviewed Arabic LIS journals and from an inventory of the currently
identified Arabic LIS educational institutions, professional associations, and scholarly communication
channels were analyzed in terms of Whitley’s theory and relevant LIS research.
Findings – The social organization of Arabic LIS has highly influenced its intellectual organization. An
analysis of types and diversity of institutional affiliations, determination of terminology, resources and
fund accessibility, scholarly communication of intellectual productivity, and research collaboration point
to high levels of ‘tasks uncertainty’, low levels of ‘mutual dependency’ and uncontrolled ‘reputational
Research limitations/implication – Because Arabic LIS institutions, associations, and research channels
are poorly represented on the Internet or in accessible literature, it was difficult to collect data
comprehensively. While our findings are suggestive and are in agreement with views from the Arabic LIS
literature, our results cannot be generalized to regions beyond the Arab World. This investigation is not
primarily intended as a contribution to the philosophy of LIS, but to describe the development of LIS in
the Arab States within a broad social and intellectual framework.
Originality/value – While there is a considerable body of theoretically oriented interpretations for
bibliometric findings, no research has been conducted to analyze the social and intellectual dimensions of
LIS in the Arab World. This paper also fills a gap for this type of the research in Arabic LIS and creates
awareness of Arabic LIS for English-speaking readers.