Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Instructional Intervention Is the Key: Supporting Adolescent Information Seeking

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Instructional Intervention Is the Key: Supporting Adolescent Information Seeking

Article excerpt

This research sought to examine the information seeking processes employed by Canadian junior high school students from Inuvik, Northwest Territories and Beaumont, Alberta when using CD-ROM encyclopedias and when completing inquiry-based learning activities. The first study revealed that participants needed both instruction and practice to develop the skills and strategies needed for full-text searching of CD-ROM encyclopedias. The participants tended to use search terms only from the original question, had difficulty selecting topics and articles from the retrieved list, and did not read long articles as carefully as short articles. The second study revealed that students needed support throughout the inquiry-based learning experience and that using Kuhlthau's Information Search Process model as a guide for affective stages was useful. Participants needed time to explore, discuss, and read before finding a focus for their inquiry. Both studies found that participants wanted time to talk and discuss and that instruction was important to help students move forward in their searching and learning.


Understanding the information seeking processes of adolescents involves looking at various kinds of situations where there is an information need. Adolescents often need to find specific bits of information for school homework, reports, and personal interests. At other times, they are involved in more sustained research where they use a variety of information sources to develop an understanding of a topic or issue. This article brings together two studies that look at adolescent information seeking processes. It is interesting to examine two studies together to see what patterns emerge and then to use this information to inform our practice. The first study revealed that instruction is key to moving students forward in their information seeking. It also introduced a new research method for gathering information seeking process data from adolescents working individually. The second study confirmed the need for instructional intervention to assist students with their inquiry-based learning and introduced a research method to gather information seeking process data when students are working in groups.

The first study examined the information seeking processes employed by junior high school students from Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada, when using CD-ROM encyclopedias. The second study followed a group of grade 8 students in Beaumont, Alberta as they completed a large research project using a variety of resources including online databases, online library catalogues, electronic encyclopedias, the Internet, and the print collections of the school, public, and academic libraries.

Literature Review

Research on the information seeking behavior of children and adolescents is limited. According to Chelton and Thomas (1999),

One of the challenges of teaching graduate students to work with children and youth in school and public libraries is to inform their approaches to instructional design and their understandings of how people use information technology through an examination of current research. The problems in so doing have been exacerbated by the scare, fragmented, and sometimes flawed nature of past research in information and library studies dealing with youth issues in information seeking, (p. 7)

Research using adolescent participants can help to inform not only those who work in school libraries and young adult departments of public libraries, but also those who serve adults. For Chelton and Thomas, "considering the problems of youth in navigating increasingly sophisticated searching environments may be helpful to system designers, at the same time that they serve as cautionary guideposts to those who may have forgotten the problems that exist for novice users of all ages" (pp. 7-8). Of course, junior high students are an interesting population all on their own. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.