SEARCHING FOR INFORMATION ONLINE: KEY INFORMATION LITERACY SKILLS OF ICT STUDENTS, THEIR SEARCH STYLES AND PREFERRED COMMUNICATION CHANNELS

G. Bubaš, A. Čižmešija, N. Žajdela Hrustek

University of Zagreb (CROATIA)
The use of internet/web has a strong influence on information seeking behavior of students. Today’s “Google generation” and “Z generation” of students heavily rely on search engines to begin their information search for purpose of their study. However, not only do they seldom use advanced search strategies, but also this “instant” type of information retrieval may have quality, authenticity and reliability issues. Use of library services and traditional printed resources is becoming less popular among students since the internet is commonly their first and sometimes the only means for finding information. Information seeking behavior of students is related to their habits regarding library attendance, computer and web experience and knowledge, complexity of assignment and information needs. This paper presents findings from a study that examined information seeking behavior for academic purposes of ICT graduate students at a Middle European university.

A pencil-and-paper survey was administered to 70 students to assess their:
(a) most commonly used electronic communication channels,
(b) information search and retrieval habits and
(c) competences for seeking and evaluating information.

The main goal of our research was to investigate information seeking behavior of students who use traditional channels for finding information needed for performing academic tasks in comparison to students who use advanced search tools and techniques for retrieval of information.

Four research questions were defined regarding information seeking behavior of students in the academic context:
(1) What are the most commonly used electronic communication channels that are used by the students who are seeking information for academic purpose?
(2) What information seeking styles can be identified based on students’ preferences for information sources for their study?
(3) What are the most common factors regarding competence of students for seeking and evaluating information?
(4) What is the relations between preferred electronic channels of communication, students’ information searching styles and factors of students’ information literacy skills in the context of information seeking behavior of students?

To interpret the data that was collected with our survey and to answer the research questions descriptive statistic, factor analyses and correlation analyses have been performed. Results of our study indicate that three main types of students’ information seeking styles could be identified:
(1) students who rely mostly on library services and printed materials,
(2) students whose information seeking strategies are based on simple search activities (e.g. search engine use, including Google Scholar)
(3) advanced users who seek information for academic tasks on academic research social networks and in specialized e-journals.

Also, in the context of key information literacy skills, four core competencies related to completion of academic assignments have been revealed:
(1) appropriate use of library services and printed resources,
(2) defining of a content of academic paper, writing and citation skills,
(3) advanced search methods of library catalogs and various other online sources of information
(4) critical evaluation of the relevance and reliability of retrieved information and search results.