education

The education essay below has been submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.

Information Seeking Behavior Of Graduate Students Education Essay

ABSTRACT

Academics and students have their own unique seeking behavior and their own ways of obtaining information whether it is from a scholarly database, the web, library collections, or from their peers. Although a good number of studies have been conducted on information seeking behavior, but the issue of research activities' interrelation with topic-related activities, how the results of the search activities were understood by the students, and whether the students feel that they have satisfied their information needs and achieved information fulfillment have not been given much consideration. Also, there is a gap in the information seeking models described in the literature review, whereas the models don't show the integration of students' library usage or knowledge about their resources as well as citation analysis. For this reason, this thesis will investigate how students go about seeking and obtaining their information needs taking into account their behavior, and if the models can help us explain more clearly the seeking behavior and the process students go through. Therefore, a qualitative research study using in depth, semi-structured interviews will be used as the research methodology. Plus, this research will be applied in Kuwait University in the College of Graduate Studies by choosing a sample of graduate students to study. New information, added value, and a theory integrated with the information seeking models will be proposed in this research paper.

1. Introduction

People seek information in different ways and using different methods to access the information they need. One individual might prefer to get the information from a news agency while another might prefer to access the latest news online or from TV, newspapers, and SMS services. Academics and students have their own unique seeking behavior and their own ways of obtaining information whether it is from a scholarly database, the web, library collections, or from their peers, therefore, it is important for us to know in this thesis how students go about seeking and obtaining their information needs taking into account their behavior. Another important factor that this research is looking at is whether the information seeking behavior of the graduate students follows an already previously established information behavioral model, and if that model can help us explain more clearly the seeking behavior and the process students go through when searching for and obtaining the information they need.

From my experience as a university graduate student in Kuwait University, graduate students face problems related to how to search and seek out related information in the appropriate databases for their work. Because there is an absence of a course and a curriculum in Kuwait University that teaches the basics of information, information types, information searching process, information seeking behavior, and an information seeking guide or strategy design, the graduate students spend most of their time struggling to find a suitable way to seek and obtain the information they need correctly. This information seeking process is done on a trial and error basis by the graduate students during their coursework assignments and projects. It would be more helpful to have this kind of information incorporated in the university's courses and curriculum especially in the first year of study to help the students improve their information seeking process. Some students also face access problems because they are not given access to the databases from outside the campus by some universities.

This thesis will investigate how students go about seeking and obtaining their information needs taking into account their behavior. It is also important to know in this research whether the students were satisfied with the material they found during their searching process, and whether the resources found was enough for them in which they got to a point where they stopped searching for any more materials. Another important area of investigation that this research is looking at is whether the information seeking behavior of the graduate students follows an already previously established information behavioral model, and if that model can help us explain more clearly the seeking behavior and the process students go through when searching for and obtaining the information they need.

It is interesting that there aren't many or enough previous research studies that study graduate students' research activities and problems students faced during the information seeking process. For this reason, graduate students' information seeking behavior will be examined to identify the types of search activities undertaken, and the problems they faced during their coursework and research papers. Although a number of studies have been conducted on information seeking behavior, but the issue of research activities' interrelation with topic-related activities, how the results of the search activities were understood by the students, and whether the students feel that they have satisficed their information needs and achieved information fulfillment particularly in the context of Kuwait University graduate students in Kuwait, as one of the developing countries, have not been given much consideration. Also, there is a gap in the information seeking models described in the literature review, whereas the models don't show the integration of students' library usage or knowledge about their resources as well as citation analysis. There needs to be an integration of library use and citation analysis in these models to give a better understanding of students' information seeking behavior.

It is important to understand how students browse the variety of resources because it helps educators in developing and assessing courses designed to instruct their students in library and electronic usage. However, there might be a possibility that students may not be familiar with library resources, or not be aware of which resources a library might have, or how to make use of them. It is therefore of interest to us to try and understand what makes one student go out and explore library resources, while another one might not use the library for printed material but instead uses only electronic or web resources to access the material needed from a remote location such as from the working offices or from home (Waldman, 2003).

2. Related Work

Since this thesis's research questions focuses on investigating the "information seeking" activities that are undertaken by graduate students, when students feel that they have "satisficed" their information needs, and did the students achieve "information fulfillment", it is important to define these terms in relation to this research. "There is an increasing recognition that in order to understand information seeking we need to understand the context in which it takes place and which to some extent shapes it" (Allen and Kim, 2001; Brezillon and Saker, 1999; Chang and Lee, 2000; Cool, 2001; Kuhlthau and Vakkari, 1999; Solomon, 2002; Sonnenwald, 1999; Talja et al., 1999; Vakkari et al., 1997; Wilson and Allen, 1999 cited in Ford, 2004, p. 183). Information seeking within its broader context is often termed “information behaviour”, defined by Wilson (1999, p. 249, cited in Ford, 2004, p. 183) as: "those activities a person may engage in when identifying his or her own needs for information, searching for such information in any way, and using or transferring that information".

"The notion of information behavior broadens that of information seeking by including consideration of the use of information in satisfying the purposes for which it was required. But taking into account such wider context may also have a narrowing effect, since the contextual elements that broaden the focus of a model may at the same time narrow its generality, in that they may be specific to particular domains of activity" (Ford, 2004, p.183).

Simon defines satisficing as a decision-making process “through which an individual decides when an alternative approach or solution is sufficient to meet the individuals' desired goals rather than pursue the perfect approach” (Simon, 1971, p. 71 cited in Prabha et al., 2007, p. 78). When individuals satisfice, they compare the benefits of obtaining “more information” against the additional cost and effort of continuing to search (Schmid, 2004 cited in Prabha et al., 2007, p. 78). In fact, in many organizations, “problems are considered resolved when a good enough solution has been found, that is the manager satisfices as she looks for a course of action that is satisfactory” (Choo, 1998, p. 49 cited in Prabha et al., 2007, p. 78). Theoretically, decision makers consider all potential alternatives until the optimal solution emerges (Stroh et al., 2002 cited in Prabha et al., 2007, p. 78). However, such an exhaustive analysis would require additional time and expenditure which information seekers must weigh against the likelihood that they will find additional information of sufficient value to offset the cost of continued searching. The consequences of putting time and effort into finding optimal solutions can be costly; therefore, “decision makers must be willing to forgo the best solution in favor of one that is acceptable” (Stroh et al., 2002, p. 94 cited in Prabha et al., 2007, p. 78). In so doing, information seekers “…satisfice…and choose the one [solution] that produces an outcome that is ‘good enough’” (Stroh et al., 2002, p. 94 cited in Prabha et al., 2007, p. 78)

"The foregoing examples suggest that users may satisfice their need for information based on what they are able to find and thus stop looking for more information. Users may also stop looking for information prematurely if the information systems are difficult or unusable. The very abundance of information makes it crucial for information seekers to decide what information is enough to meet their objectives".

(Prabha et al. 2007, p. 78).

"Information Fulfillment can be defined as the achievement of all information needs. The provenance of the term can be traced back to the 1870s when it was used to describe the fulfillment of a commercial order. The aim of an information system is to ensure that the end user is able to function effectively within the organization – and able to access all the necessary information in order to complete a task. There have been a variety of information models proposed which aim to plot the sequences of events from the initial information seeking to information finding" (Burke, 2006, p.446).

Seeking information is still a fundamental activity which involves searching, collecting, organizing, storing, retrieving, and using information (Abouserie, 2007). Abouserie (2007) stated that it has become easy to save time and make less effort in retrieving information on a subject or to get a information source by its title, author, subject, and date of publication through the use of information based research tools. He also explained that the tasks of making several information seeking strategies and retrieving information have been improved by the emergence of new generations of hardware and software (Machionini, 1995 cited in Abouserie, 2007, p.3). Adequate knowledge about the information needs of users is imperative for libraries in re-orienting their collections, services and activities to synchronize them with the information seeking behavior of users. New technologies have affected the information seeking process. These technologies have affected some functions and processes in universities, schools, libraries, and information centers (Abouserie, 2007).

Abouserie (2007) also described that storing, organizing, retrieving, and providing access to information are the main processes that have been positively affected. Many library materials are available in online databases. In addition, it becomes possible for many users to use each database at the same time without affecting the quality of the service or the response rate. He also stated that information seeking is a broad term that includes the ways individuals formulate their information needs, seek, evaluate, select and use the needed information. Many factors contribute to the selection and use of different information sources such as: cost, past success, accuracy, reliability, comprehensiveness, usefulness, currency, response time, accessibility, technical quality, and the format. Investigations into the information needs and information seeking patterns of individuals would help improve the current information systems and resources for providing to the continuous changing needs of their users (Abouserie, 2007).

In this thesis information seeking behavior is described as an "individual’s way and manner of gathering and sourcing for information for personal use, knowledge updating and development" (Kakai et al, 2004 cited in Ajiboye, 2007, p.546). Waldman (2003) stated that information seeking behavior is the way people search for and utilize information. It is important to understand what factors are relevant in motivating a person to seek out information. A particular focus of inquiry has been on those factors that play a role in deciding to use the library and its resources as a place to seek information, either physically or virtually, as opposed to just surfing the Internet. He also stated that it would appear that more people are using the Internet to find information they need, and information that is unmediated by the library. He stated that informed library users are aware that libraries have resources that are more comprehensive and scholarly in nature than most Web resources available on the Internet.

Also, libraries may provide access to scholarly literature that is not freely available on the Web, or may not be online at all. Equally important, users become aware of libraries' resources, usually while having to write research papers in their undergraduate or graduate studies. Waldman (2003) also said that it is critical to understand what makes students use the library's resources whether (print and/or electronic) while others will not think of the library as a place to find scholarly resources for their papers. One difficulty to the use of a library's resources, and in particular its electronic resources, is that they are not seen as being direct. In contrast to an Internet search engine, where a single keyword search will usually result in thousands of hits, no matter what the topic is, on the other hand, in the library, students have to choose a particular database and be more selective in the search words they use according to Waldman (2003).

3. Objective of the research and the proposed methodology

The aim of this thesis is to know how students go about seeking and obtaining their information needs taking into account their behavior. It also aims at knowing whether the students were satisfied with the material they found during their searching process, and whether the resources found was enough for them in which they got to a point where they stopped searching for any more materials. Another important factor that this research aims at is whether the information seeking behavior of the graduate students follows an already previously established information behavioral model, and if that model can help us explain more clearly the seeking behavior and the process students go through when searching for and obtaining the information they need.

The following objectives will be used in the study to structure the inquiry and to guide the development of the research procedures and methodologies:

To identify and synthesize the literature relevant to information seeking behavior.

To determine the place of this research within the published literature.

To select and develop a method of data collection.

To examine and analyze how students obtain the information they need.

To gather and represent data on the information seeking activities and strategies of students.

To investigate the extent to which model of the information seeking models could explain the information behavior of graduate students.

To test the applicability of a generic (Wilson's first information seeking behavior model of 1981) and a non-linear information model (Foster's 2005 information behavior model) to the information behavior of graduate students.

To examine what difficulties students face and what types of behavior they experience during their information seeking process when finding or not finding the appropriate information.

For this reason, an exploratory qualitative research approach with semi-structured, in-depth interviews was chosen as the methodology, because this research focuses on studying the information seeking behavior of graduate students, and the most suitable method to study the behavior of students as well as their information needs and process of acquiring information is through the qualitative method. According to Ambert et. al. (1995) qualitative research seeks depth rather than breadth, and instead of drawing from a large sample of an entire population, qualitative researchers seek to acquire in-depth information about a smaller group of persons. The aim of qualitative research is to clear about how and why people behave, think, and make meaning as they do, rather than focusing on what people do or believe on a large scale. In addition, qualitative research frequently results in discovery of new information, and new practices or behaviors rather than verification. It may also involve complete redirection, or modification of, or additions to, existing ideas or models.

Qualitative methods are a set of data collection and analysis techniques that can be used to provide description, build theory, and to test theory Van Maanen (1979 cited in Shah and Corley, 2006, p.1824). The reason why quantitative method is not being used in this research is because this thesis's aims and objectives are not to develop and employ mathematical models and hypotheses concerning phenomena using calculations and statistical procedures. Qualitative research is a better method to be used for this thesis because it provides a deeper understanding of the issues and insight into the process we are studying. Researchers in this field such as George, C. et al. (2006) study explored graduate students' information behavior related to their process of inquiry and scholarly activities. Qualitative method was used through in depth, semi-structured interviews that were conducted with one hundred graduate students representing all disciplines and departments from Carnegie Mellon University. Other researchers like Foster (2005) offers a new, nonlinear model of information seeking behavior, which contrasts with earlier stage models of information behavior and represents a potential cornerstone for a shift towards a new perspective for understanding user information behavior. The model is based on the findings of a study on interdisciplinary information-seeking behavior. The study followed a qualitative approach using interviews of 45 academics. The interview results were inductively analyzed and an alternative framework for understanding information seeking behavior was developed. The research approach that will be applied in this thesis will be the use of Grounded Theory (GT). This thesis and its research questions try to find an answer or an explanation to the phenomenon which is the graduate students' information seeking behavior. This research has no previous theory or a hypothesis to test, but it seeks to generate a new idea, information, added value, or a theory to previous research done in the subject of information seeking behavior of graduate students. Therefore, the most suitable qualitative data analysis method chosen for this thesis is Grounded Theory (GT). Grounded Theory is a general, inductive, and interpretive research approach which was originated in 1967 by Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). Glaser defines grounded theory as an approach that is based on the systematic generation of theory from the data collected and analyzed that is obtained from social research. Theory is generated during the actual research, and this is achieved through continuous interplay between analysis and data collection. Researchers who use GT as their research method do not test or verify any preconceived hypothesis. In contrast, researchers in this approach develop new theory based on the collected data. Instead of having hypotheses to test, researchers in GT studies have research questions to address. In grounded theory, a researcher should keep his/her mind open to any possible evidence that might exist in the dataset.

In Glaser's words (1992, p. 8) GT is “inductively generating theory through qualitative analysis of qualitative and/or quantitative data. To define the meaning of qualitative analysis, Glaser (1992, p. 1) states that qualitative analysis entails any kind of analysis that generates findings or concepts, as in grounded theory, that are not arrived at by statistical methods. Although GT is a well-established methodology, it is an approach to research rather than a detailed research method. The general goal of GT research is to develop theories in order to understand the phenomenon under study. GT has been developed and also used within the field of social science, and has been successfully employed by people in a variety of different disciplines including information science. In addition, Pace (2004) states that the main and essential stages in the process of GT development involves first coding the data collected, memo writing, sorting the data, and then writing the theory. This study is also significant because the uses of information resources especially electronic resources are used by students in universities and academic libraries. Since the access and use of electronic resources is faster and less time consuming, it makes it more appealing for students than that of obtaining printed resources. This research will be applied in Kuwait University in the College of Graduate Studies by choosing a sample of graduate students to study, because students in Kuwait face problems related to how to search and seek out related information in the appropriate databases for their research papers. Graduate students in Kuwait University need a strategy to guide them in their information seeking process. New information, added value, and a theory integrated with the information seeking models will be proposed in this research paper.

4. Results of data collected

The sample was drawn from the population of graduate students enrolled at the College of Graduate Studies at Kuwait University. The 24 students that were interviewed and observed in the library and computer labs were from the Information Systems, Social Sciences, and Library Departments. The data that was collected from the students' transcribed interviews were coded into meaningful categories using qualitative data analysis and represented in the figure below and will be described in 8 key points that will hopefully help in answering the research questions of this thesis and address the gap or problem in this research. From the data collected it is clear that the students' information seeking behavior and activities were only caused by their course-related homework and that they mainly used online resources to find information they needed for their coursework in a hope to reach information fulfillment. Also from the data collected during the interviews, the students expressed that they don't seek information or make any research activities outside their university coursework or for personal use. Plus, so far from the data collected, the students seem to follow Wilson's first information seeking behavior model of 1981 and Foster's 2005 information behavior model that were explained in the literature review and they are applicable in their situations. The findings were summarized in the following key points, topics, or themes: types of research activities, activities interrelation with topic, library usage and role in obtaining information needs, Internet usage and role in obtaining information needs, result of search activities understood by students, support from instructors and fellow students in getting information, achieving satisfaction with information needs, and achieving information fulfillment.

4.1 Data Analysis

The main approach to the data analysis involved a detailed analysis of the interview transcripts collected from the graduate students at Kuwait University. First of all, notes from each interview, made both during the interview and immediately after it, were reviewed and then highlights as well as new concepts were identified. Secondly, the transcript from each interview was reviewed and coded. Thirdly, each new interview was compared to the previous ones for confirming or disconfirming evidence. Open coding using Key Point Coding was used for coding the responses from the interviews to give P1, P2, and so on where ‘P’ indicates ‘key point’ (Allan, 2003). The codes are then analyzed and those that relate to a common theme are grouped together. Concepts are then grouped and regrouped to find categories. Then these concepts and categories lead to the emergence of a theory. If the data has been analyzed without a preconceived theory or hypothesis, that theory is truly grounded in the data because it came from nowhere else. Preliminary patterns describing the factors that influence information-seeking behavior were developed based on concepts identified during the literature review (Mansourian, 2006).

Key Points

Responses from sample

P1: Types of research activities

Only university courses related activities from (I1 to I27). I3, I26 also researched for personal work.

P2: Activities interrelation with topic

Activities are interrelated with topics from (I1 to I27)

P3: Library usage and role in obtaining information needs

I3, I4, I6, I9, I11,I13, I16, I22, I25

P4: Internet usage and role in obtaining information needs

I1, I2, I3, I4, I5, I6, I7, I8, I9, I10, I11, I12, I13, I14, I15, I16, I17, I18, I19, I20, I21, I22, I23,I24, I25, I26, I27

P5: Result of search activities understood by students

I1, I2, I3, I4, I5, I6, I7, I9, I11, I12, I13, I14, I15, I16, I17, I18, I19, I20, I24, I25, I26, I27

P6: Support from instructors and fellow students in getting information

I1, I3, I4, I5, I6, I7, I8, I9, I10, I11, I12, I14, I15, I16, I17, I18, I19, I20, I21, I22, I23, I24, I25, I26, I27

P7: Opinions on achieving satisfaction with information needs

I1, I3, I4, I5, I6, I7, I8, I10, I11, I12,I13, I14, I15, I16, I17, I18, I19, I20, I21, I22, I23, I24, I25, I26, I27

P8: Achieving information fulfillment

I18, I24, I25

Key Points are presented using the code (p) as in key point no.1 (P1), key point no.2 (P2).

Responses from the sample that was interviewed are presented as (I1, I2). The code (I) refers to Individual 1, Individual 2.

This thesis examines what types of research activities are undertaken by graduate students, and how these activities were interrelated with topic-related activities. This thesis identifies how the results of the search activities were understood by the students, when students feel that they have satisficed their information needs, and did the students achieve information fulfillment. Also, this thesis sets out to investigate the extent to which model of the information seeking models could explain the information behavior of graduate students, and to test the applicability of a generic (Wilson's first information seeking behavior model of 1981) and a non-linear information model (Foster's 2005 information behavior model) to the information behavior of graduate students. From the data collected during the interviews and observation, it is clear that the students' search activities were interrelated with topic-related activities. Their information seeking behavior and activities were only caused by their course-related homework and that they mainly used online resources to find information they needed for their coursework in a hope to reach information fulfillment. Also from the data collected during the interviews, the students expressed that they don't seek information or make any research activities outside their university coursework or for personal use. Plus, so far from the data collected, the students seem to follow Wilson's first information seeking behavior model of 1981 and Foster's 2005 information behavior model that were explained in the literature review and they are applicable in their situations. The findings were summarized in 8 key points, topics, or themes. The students all expressed that they always feel that they haven't satisficed their information needs and don't achieve information fulfillment. They also face problems during their information seeking behavior and demanded that Kuwait University find a solution to these obstacles to improve their information seeking experience. One student recommended that, "Kuwait University must provide us with training courses and workshops for all types of searching that is organized with the library and should be incorporated within our courses. Also, skilled librarians should be hired who are aware of other fields and majors so that they can help us with our searching process and save us time when finding materials. Plus, the university should subscribe to more databases as well as English and Arabic journals in addition to the ones that are already available. Moreover, there should be one web page or portal to unite the access to all database web sites by entering just one username and password, because there is the burden and difficulty of entering a username and a password for each database web site. There is no portal that unites all of the universities' databases where only one username and password is entered at the beginning and then you can browse all the databases." Another student suggested that, "My information seeking process and obtaining experience could be improved by being able to download all articles from the university's databases, because right now I face a problem in downloading some articles. Also, the university needs to subscribe to more databases so that I have a variety of resources to search for my topics. The databases that the university is currently subscribed to should work. Finally, there needs to be more organization in the university library in terms of keeping articles or books so that we can easily find them and not take so much time in searching for resources that could be lost without us knowing." Furthermore, a student said that it would be lovely to see the university, "Provide me with full access to databases off the university campus. Additionally, meetings should be organized with librarians and students to help them on the ways of searching for materials, and on how to get the printed and electronic resources available physically at the library or on the university's online web site." Equally important, all students suggested that the university should provide them with up-to-date software programs and good hardware devices with no technical problems or defaults.

4.2 Graduate Students' Information Seeking Behavior Model at Kuwait University

The following proposed model describes and shows the steps and process of what graduate students actually go through and what they do in their information seeking behavior. The boxes in the model show processes, inputs, outputs, steps, and people, and the arrows represents a mixture of information and decision making trajectories and the relationships and inter-relationships between them. First, the graduate student is given the option of choosing his or her topic to do a research on, or a topic is assigned to them by the instructor during the coursework. The topic is interrelated with the research activities or the information seeking behavior. Then, the students seek for information either from the library or from the Internet. The graduate students use mostly electronic resources from the web via Google Scholar, The Invisible Web, and from the databases that the university is subscribed to. When the students are experiencing their information seeking behavior, they sometimes get help, support, and advice from their instructors and fellow students or friends. Afterwards, the student gets the results of his or her search activities and the information seeking behavior might result in satisfaction and happiness to the student or non-satisfaction which then leads to lack of satisficing and information fulfillment. Finally, the satisfaction of the information should lead to information fulfillment for the student.

Lack of Satisficing & Information Fulfillment

Information Fulfillment

Library

Google, Invisible Web, & Databases

Internet

Information Seeking Behavior (Research Activities)

Non-satisfaction

Satisfaction

Understanding research results

Topic

Support from Instructors & Students

Graduate Student

5. Conclusion

Academics and students have their own unique seeking behavior and their own ways of obtaining information whether it is from a scholarly database, the web, library collections, or from their peers, therefore, it is important for us to know in this thesis how students go about seeking and obtaining their information needs taking into account their behavior. Another important factor that this research is looking at is whether the information seeking behavior of the graduate students follows an already previously established information behavioral model, and if that model can help us explain more clearly the seeking behavior and the process students go through when searching for and obtaining the information they need. It is interesting that there aren't many or enough previous research studies that study graduate students' research activities and problems students faced during the information seeking process. Although a number of studies have been conducted on information seeking behavior, but the issue of research activities' interrelation with topic-related activities, how the results of the search activities were understood by the students, and whether the students feel that they have satisficed their information needs and achieved information fulfillment particularly in the context of Kuwait University graduate students in Kuwait, as one of the developing countries, have not been given much consideration. Also, there is a gap in the information seeking models described in the literature review, whereas the models don't show the integration of students' library usage or knowledge about their resources as well as citation analysis. There needs to be an integration of library use and citation analysis in these models to give a better understanding of students' information seeking behavior.


Request Removal

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please click on the link below to request removal:

Request the removal of this essay


More from UK Essays