Perceived Effect of Personality Traits on Information Seeking Behaviour of Postgraduate Students in Universities in Benue State, Nigeria.

Author:Ozowa, Victor


1.1 Background of the study

Information plays significant role in our various personal lives. This is due to a universal assumption that man was born innocent and should actively seek knowledge for survival (Heinstrom, 2003). Individuals need information to work properly and improve their daily performance. Information can be defined as data value in planning, decision making and evaluation of any programme. It is data that have been subjected to processing functions capable of answering user's query be it recorded, summarized or simply collected that would help in decision making (KOC University Library Glossary, 2014). Information can be found in books, journals, magazines, public and private sector documents. It could be published for mass circulation or unpublished and restricted to confidential matters. It could also be results of research that are made available to colleagues in form of reports, books articles and non-printed materials such as CD-ROM. These are expected to be used in solving peculiar needs. According to Nishat and Ahmad (2008), the awareness, possession and appropriate use of accurate information ensure students effectiveness in their academic endeavours and make them to be conscious of their learning environment. Thus, there is need for students to be conversant with growth in the concept of information and information seeking behaviour.

Information seeking behaviour is a broad term which involves a set of actions that an individual takes to express information need, seek information, evaluate and select information and finally use this information to satisfy his information needs. Information seeking behaviour can be defined as an individual's way and manner of gathering and sourcing for information for personal use, knowledge updating and development. Esew, (2015) defined information seeking behaviour as the purposive seeking due to consequence of the need to satisfy goals. Uhegbu (2007) also described information seeking behaviour as the way in which information users conduct themselves when searching for information. Information seeking behaviour is important because it shows the attitude of students when in need of information and enable them find solutions to problems. Apata and Samuel (2010) in their own view defined information seeking behaviour as a fundamental human process closely related to learning and problem solving. While, Ekoja (2010) stated that the process of seeking information vary from one individual to another according to age, gender, level of education, occupation, location and culture. Therefore, there seems to be no common information seeking behaviour among individuals. Consequently, information seeking behaviour is the tendencies, approaches and recognition of information need which propels the use of information services and resources. Mostofa (2013) posited that information seeking behaviour is the utterance, gesture, zeal or any other attributes displayed by students in an effort to acquire knowledge. Nwobasi, Uwa and Ossai-Onah (2013) noted that information seeking behaviour could be expressed in various forms such as reading printed materials, asking friends and colleagues, communication with others through online to research and experimentation. Scholars such as Heinstrom, (2003); Halder, Roy & Chakraborty, (2010); and Gul, Shah, Mahajan and Tun-Nisa, (2014) identified relevance difficulties, time pressure, critical thinking, accidental information discovery, efforts used in information seeking as the different dimensions of information seeking behaviour of individuals. Information seeking has often been compared to a rational problem solving process where a gap in knowledge triggers a conscious search for information. In most cases, some students may plan and structure their searches, while others gather information in a more flexible and spontaneous fashion (Solomon, in Ajiboye, & Tella (2007). Students differ in their personal values, retrieve and process information differently; their personality trait is different, so also their understanding.

Personality traits are abstract concept which integrates aspects of what a person is like. These aspects include emotions, motivations, thoughts, experiences, perceptions, and actions. The conceptual meaning of personality traits is multifaceted, encompassing a wide spectrum of internal, mental process that influence how a person acts across different situations. Personality traits reflect people's characteristic pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Allport in Owuh (2011) defined personality traits as that which an individual really is, it is internal "something" that determine the nature of the person's interaction with the world. Burger, (2010) regarded personality traits as the individual unique way of making sense out of life experiences. Similarly, Bandura in Chahau (2006) view personality traits as a complex pattern in which persons, behaviour and situation continually influences each other. Personality traits represent those distinct qualities that makes an individual stand out from others. Different studies in psychology have shown that five broad dimensions could be used to describe individual differences in human behaviour. The dimensions are classified as openness to experience, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness and extroversion.

Extroversion is the personality trait of seeking fulfilment from sources outside the self or in community. Those high on extroversion tend to be very social while low extroverts will prefer keeping to themselves. Conscientiousness is the personality trait of been honest and hardworking. Those high on this trait prefer following rules and like been neat and tidy while those low may be messy and are not always straightforward.

Agreeableness is the personality trait of individuals that easily adjust their behaviour to suit others. Individuals high on agreeableness are often polite and are usually nice to others while those low on this trait are often competitive and challenging. Openness to experience is the personality trait of seeking new experience and intellectual pursuits. Open individuals can daydream a lot while those low on this trait can be very down to earth. These dimensions were further subdivided into facets, for example, a conscientious student is expected to be competent, ordered, dutiful, achievement-striking, self-disciplined and deliberate. Extroverts are expected to be warmth, gregarious, assertive, active; excitement seeking and have positive emotions. Also, agreeable student is expected to have trust, straightforward, comply, tenderminded, modest and altruist. Neuroticism is expected to be anxious, angry; hostile, depressed; self-conscious, impulsive and vulnerable. Openness to experience students are expected to fantasy, aesthete; feel, active; have ideas and values. It is through the study of individual differences that the qualities that distinguish one person from other can be understood.

Educators, researchers and psychologists have constantly search for variables that will predict students' behaviour and their relationship with academic achievement and personality traits have been recognized as one of the determining factors on how people learn. Some students tend to prefer learning environments consistent with their own personality type preference. Besides, personality traits could have a direct impact on the brain. It could influence detection, encoding, storage, retrieval as well as integration of information according to Case in Halder, Roy, & Chakraborty, (2010). This shows that personality traits could influence attitude and behaviour in an information seeking context. Researchers have also found that students vary in their ability to find and retrieve information in structured information environments (Eweniyi & Ogunsanya, 2006). Halder, Roy and Chakraborty (2010) in their study of influence of personality traits on the information seeking behaviour of students revealed all the five dimensions of personality traits to correlated with information seeking behaviour of students. In another study by Gul et al. (2014) on influence of personality traits on information seeking behaviour of research scholars found the big-five personality traits dimensions to influence information seeking behaviour of research scholars. Again, Heistrom (2003) study on five personality dimensions and their influence on information seeking behaviour revealed five personality dimensions to also correlate with information seeking behaviour of Master Degree students in Finland. Thus, recognition of individual differences and their effect on information seeking behaviour could assist librarians, information scientists and other stake holders in information positioning and delivery process. It can also enhance the importance of individual differences in information provision processes. In this study, the researcher intends to investigate the perceived effect of personality traits on information seeking behaviour of postgraduate students in universities in Benue state with emphasis on the big-five personality dimensions (extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experience and neuroticism). This knowledge will assist information scientists in improving information service delivery.

Postgraduate students are students who have finished their bachelor degree or higher national diploma programme and are undergoing studies for more advanced programme. The postgraduate students include students who are running programmes in postgraduate diploma, master degree programmes, Ph.D programmes and post-doctoral degree programmes. This group of students when seeking for information are often anxious, curious, confident, and sometimes are influenced by negative emotions such as anger, depression, worries when seeking information (Al-Samarraie et al., 2016). These also affect the quality of information retrieved. Gul...

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