A comparative study on information seeking behavior of B.Sc. & M.Sc. agricultural extension & education students.

Author:Sookhtanlo, Mojtaba


In Iran, Nature of field of agricultural extension & education is multidiscipline; so it is crystal clear that, agricultural extension and education students need information to obtain higher level of knowledge in a field for preparing academic course homework and project papers using a variety of information sources and services. Also, in Iran, toward improving knowledge about agricultural extension and education field, providing the basic academic facilities for information seeking process is necessary. Information seeking behavior is a broad term, which involves a set of actions that an individual takes to express information needs, seek information, evaluate and select information, and finally uses this information to satisfy his/her information needs (Majid and Kassim, 2000). In other hands, Information seeking behavior is considered a multifarious, dynamic, social human behavior that needs a picture as rich as possible to truly understand the phenomenon, and then, many questions will be answered (Gureshi, Zafar and Bashir khan, 2008).

Literature Review

In the study of Graves and Seliq (1986), they emphasized the importance of the medical library s role in developing life long learning skills in medical students. They pointed out that students need to develop skills in information management and the use information tools and databases. Undergraduate students often do not comprehend the necessity of learning to use the library resources available to them, nor do they always realize that research skills will be a necessary part of their future practice of medical profession (Graves and Seliq, 1986).

Pelzer and Leysen (1988), at their study about library use and information-seeking behavior of veterinary medical students for veterinary medical students at Iowa State indicated that the library was most frequently used for studying and for making photocopies of materials. The typical respondent relied on course textbooks and handouts for current information on unfamiliar topics, instead of using indexes or abstracts for guidance to recent literature. Light use of library information resources raises the concern that students are developing an inadequate base of retrieval skills for finding information on new procedures, diseases and drugs. No differences were found between students with and without formal bibliographic instruction in their approaches to seeking information or in library use (Pelzer and Leysen, 1988).

Findings of Fidzani (1998) indicated that guidance in the use of library resources and services is necessary to help students meet some of their information requirements. The study found that: journals, library books and textbooks are the most popular sources of information for course work and research and those students need to be taught how to use available library resources and services.

In another study, Whitmire (2001) examined the differences in library use attributed to students at different class levels. The survey investigated the library experiences of undergraduate students during their three years of study. Overall, library use was low for students in first, second and third year. However, the extent of participation by students in the various library activities did increase during the three years of study for 7 of the 11 library experiences. Asking the librarian was the one experience that decreased between the first and the third year undergraduate students. Using the computers in the library was the most important activity for undergraduates at all stages of their studies where it achieved the highest level of activity for the second and third year students and the second highest score for the first year students. Using the library catalogue (card or online) was reported as the activity that received the highest score for first year undergraduate students and the second highest score for second and third year students. Using the library to read or as a place of study was the third highest activity for first and second year undergraduates at this university and ranked fourth for third year undergraduate students. Using reference materials was the least popular activity engaged in by all class levels.

Drabenstott (2003), examined strategies used by fourteen undergraduates in a single search session employing a so- called information gateway, a university library s home page on the web that provided one entry point for access to the library s online resources. She concluded that few undergraduates were able to enlist search strategies commonly taken by domain experts (i.e., subject experts like professors) and when they did, domain-expert strategies were used infrequently and ineffectively.

Jarvelin and Ingwersen (2004) studies examine students and academic settings to explain competency theory admits application in analyzing information seeking behaviors in those who do not realize their own incompetence and therefore overestimate their abilities and other people s performance. Low-level information-seeking skills may then affect individuals ability to recognize the need for information and the value of libraries and other information providers. Information professionals need to recognize low-level literacy skills and library anxiety in all service populations in order to provide outreach and systems to assist these students or patrons.

Song (2005) compared information seeking behavior of domestic and international business students enrolled in the College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Results of study showed only 6% of international business students responded that they initially go to the home page of the commerce library to conduct research, compared to 1 7% of domestic business students. About 94% of international business students initially go to either Google or Yahoo. This result implies that the library needs to develop ways to increase the use of library databases by both student groups, but especially by international business students. Both student groups need to be educated that search engines such as Google and Yahoo do not search specialized and proprietary databases that require subscription. The survey results offered insights into understanding different perceptions of these two student groups with respect to their library use patterns and research strategies.

Kim (2006) in his study about student use of library databases found that convenient access was an important determinant of database use. Some students preferred open Internet searches to web-based subscription databases simply because o f their convenience. Kim goes on to note that competing with Internet searching must be a priority for libraries in the future: To compete with open internet searches and facilitate use of Web-based subscription databases, it is crucial for libraries to increase the convenience of access and awareness of the existence of the databases.

In another study, Gureshi, Zafar and Bashir khan (2008), discovered in their research of students information seeking behavior in Universities of Pakistan that, Lack of awareness of available resources and ability to use tools are big causes that highly affects information needs and seeking behavior of Pakistani students.

Callinan (2005) reported on research conducted at University of Dublin comparing...

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