Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Information-Seeking Processes of Junior High School Students: A Case Study of CD-ROM Encyclopedia Use

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Information-Seeking Processes of Junior High School Students: A Case Study of CD-ROM Encyclopedia Use

Article excerpt

The purpose of this research was to examine the information-seeking processes employed by junior high school students from Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada when using CD-ROM encyclopedias. The 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. Instruction related to information-seeking skills and strategies should focus on generating search terms, selecting topics from a retrieved list, and skimming and scanning through text to find the answer.

Introduction to the Study

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 scarce, fragmented, and sometimes flawed nature of past research in information and library studies dealing with youth issues in information seeking. (p. 7)

As a result, many teachers and teacher-librarians are unaware of the information-seeking strategies that will be most effective when using new technology, such as CD-ROM encyclopedias. Because such a large amount of information is available to students on a CD-ROM, the program in school libraries must deal with helping students recognize, select, and use information that most meets their needs (Baumbach, 1990). Schools and school curricula are being influenced by "the rapid development, application and uptake of interactive multimedia technologies" (Oliver & Oliver, 1996, p. 33).

This research examined the information-seeking processes that junior high school students at Samuel Hearne Secondary School in Inuvik, Northwest Territories employed when using CD-ROM encyclopedias. In junior high, students' classroom work requires them to access much more information than at any time previously in their school career. Students at this age can begin to gain some independence when searching for information. The study included junior high students with a range of experiences, academic abilities, knowledge of computers, and familiarity with CD-ROM encyclopedias selected by their core classroom teachers. The context in which the participants searched was explored through observations in the school and through interviews with the key informants in the school.

Review of the Literature


Many models to describe information-seeking behavior have been developed by researchers in various disciplines. Researchers have proposed several information-seeking models that have direct relevance to this study. Bates (1989) argued that her "berrypicking" model of information-seeking "is much closer to the real behavior of information searchers" (p. 407). This dynamic model stressed that real searchers, rather than finding information using one single search query, gather the bits and pieces of information in a "berrypicking" manner. Kuhlthau's (1983, 1988, 1991, 1993) work presented another process approach to information-seeking. This Information Search Process (ISP) model included affective, cognitive, and physical aspects of the whole information-seeking process. The inclusion of all three aspects was, for Kuhlthau (1991), "necessary for a model to address a wider, holistic view of information use" (p. 362). Gross' (1999) work "emphasized that information seeking may be either self-generated (internally motivated by the personal context) or imposed (set in motion by someone else)" (p. 501).

Researchers have tried to determine what novice users do when accessing information in electronic environments (Fidel, 1984; Solomon, 1993; Tenopir, Nahl-Jacobovits, & Howard, 1991; Trivison, Charms, Saracevic, & Kantor 1986). …

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