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1.1 Background to the Study
Information can be seen as anything that causes some behavioural changes when assimilated by an individual. Information is defined by Reitz (2004) as all conclusions, ideas and creative works of the human intellect and imagination that have been communicated formally and informally in any form. In a similar definition, Aina (2008) defines it as meaningful communication symbols transferred between any two points in human communication or machine networks. Aguolu (1984) asserted that information can increase our awareness and help us educate our people, accelerate progress and provide the source data required for the solution of our increasingly complex economic, social and scientific problems.
In Information Science, the concept of information has been defined in many different ways. In the cognitive view point, it is defined the information associated with a text as the generator's modified (by purpose, intent, knowledge of the recipient state of knowledge) conceptual structure which underlines the surface structure (e.g. language of that text). This definition is subsequently elaborated by Ingwersen (2008) as information being the result of a transformation of the generator's cognitive structure (by intentionality, model of the recipients' state of knowledge and in the form of signs). On the other hand also, it is a structure which when perceived may affect and transform the recipient's state of knowledge. In this study, therefore, information is conceptualized as something which students need during their studies and in the process of learning.
Relevance of Information to Academics
The importance of information in an academic environment cannot be overemphasized. Online information resources, as asserted by Gbaje (2007) is that which facilitate access to relevant and current information for teaching, learning and research development. Academics in any society are seen as the propellers of knowledge.
Higher education is changing rapidly with the advent of technology. According to Shuling (2007), in recent years, electronic information has gradually become a major resource in every university library. Majid et al (1999) argued that technological advancements opened up new horizons for the creation, storage, access, distribution and presentation of information. Brophy (1993) noted that the advantages of electronic information resources over print ones include the following: speed, ease of use, ability to search multiple files at the same time, ability to save, print and repeat
searches, more frequent updating and the ability to access from outside the library (more advantageous to distant learners).
Academics now live in a superior new world. The rapid advancement of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has brought a revolutionary change in the information scenario, giving rise to a number of options to the users' community, to handle varied information sources conveniently and effortlessly (Swain and Panda 2009). Dadzie (2005) highlighted the importance of online information to academics when he stated that online information could be accessed by users that are restricted by geographical location or finances, access to current information and provision of extensive links to additional resources or related content. They could be stored electronically thereby saving space and reducing the risk of lost, theft and damage. Academics are encouraged to become information literate, life-long learners in order to cope with the challenges of the fast-paced society, knowledge explosion, technological advancement, culture of
information revolution and new academic and vocational opportunities. Because of the
importance of information seeking behavior for academics, institutions of higher education need to facilitate a culture of information seeking and to improve the utilization of resource support, such as library and documentation services. With knowledge changing rapidly and the ready access to technology, academics must upgrade their knowledge and skills in order to cope with an overflow of knowledge (Eskola, 1998; Griffiths & Brophy, 2002; Miculincer, 1997).
Information behaviour encompasses information seeking as well as the totality of other unintentional or passive behaviours (such as glimpsing or encountering information), as well as purposive behaviours that do not involve seeking, such as avoiding information (Case, 2002). Based on the general model of information behaviour developed by Wilson (1997), he posited that a general model of information behaviour needs to include at least three elements:
i an information need and its drives, i.e. the factors that give rise to an individual's
perception of need, ii. the factors that affect the individual's response to the perception of needs; and,
iii. the processes or actions involved in that response.
Taylor (1991) asserted that information is the product of certain element of the information use environment. These elements, according to him, are: the assumptions, formerly learned or not, made by a defined set of people concerning their nature of work, the kind and structure of the problems deemed important and typical by this set of people, the constraints and opportunities of typical environments within which any group or sub-group of this set of people operate and work, and the conscious perhaps unconscious assumptions made as to what constitutes a solution or better said a resolution of problems and what makes information useful and valuable in their contexts. From the above, therefore, information behaviour can be said to be the totality of human behaviour in relation to sources and channels of information, including both active and passive information seeking and use.
It is a universal phenomenon that human beings search for solutions to challenges in their quest to survive and advance. Information seeking is thus a natural and necessary mechanism of human existence (Marchionini: 1992). Case (2002) succinctly put that information seeking is a conscious effort to acquire information in response to a need or gap in the knowledge of a client. IkojaOdongo and Ochalla (2004) described information seeking as a process that requires an information seeker's cognitive ability, his or her knowledge and skills regarding information seeking. Information seeking therefore is the act of obtaining information from existing resources in both human and technological contexts. Information seeking starts with the needs of users, followed by needs analysis, collection and filtration, with the needs information finally transmitted to users. Sources of information include domain experts, knowledge workers, traditional paper files, document databases, digital media, and the Internet.
In Information Science, information need is defined as that need originating from a vague awareness of something missing and then culminating in locating information that contributes to understanding and meaning (Kuhlthau: 1993). It is an anomalous state of knowledge (Belkin, Brooks and Oddy, 1982) or a gap in an individual's knowledge in sense making situations (Devin
& Milan, 1986). For a person to experience an information need, there must be a motive behind it, (Wilson, 1997). From the above definitions, therefore, it can be noted that an information need is recognition that one's knowledge is inadequate to satisfy a goal that is at hand.
Information Seeking Behaviour
Information-seeking behaviour begins when someone realizes the existence of an information need and ends when that need is believed to have been satisfied (Krikelas 1983). The seeker turns to formal and informal sources of information and is ultimately satisfied or dissatisfied with the end result (Wilson, 2009). Similarly, it can be defined as an individual's way and manner of gathering and sourcing for information for personal use, knowledge updating and development. Fairer-Wessels (1990:361 in Kakai et al, 2004) refers to it as a way people search for and utilize information. Information seeking behavior refers to those activities a person engages in when identifying his or her own need for information, searching for such information in any way, and using or transferring that information. In relation to this study therefore, it can be deduced that information seeking behaviour is the purposive seeking for information as a consequence of a need to satisfy some goals. In the course of seeking for research and assignments, the individual may interact with manual information systems (such as newspaper or a library) or with computer-based systems (such as the Internet-world wide web).
Information Seeking Theories
Information seeking is the process of attempting to obtain information in both human and
technological contexts. A variety of theories of information behaviour e.g. Zipf’s Principle of Least Effort, Brenda Dervin's Sense, Making and Elfreda Chatman's Life in the Rounds, seek to understand the processes that surround information seeking. Foster (2005) and Kuhlthau (2006), asserted that information seeking has generally been accepted as dynamic and non-linear. People experience information search as a process of an interplay of thoughts, feelings and actions (Kuhlthau, 2006).
Online Information Systems, Resources and Services
Information systems have been defined as a set of inter-related components working together to collect, retrieve, process, store and distribute information over a network. It also consists of the network of all communication channels used within an organisation. Online information systems occupy the centre stage of information seeking in the online environment.
Online information resources as maintained by Gbaje (2007) are relevant information and communication technology that aid in the access of relevant and current information for teaching, learning and research development. Online information resources have the potentials of allowing institutions and researchers to share their own research output with the global community. Online information resources are capable of enhancing research and also lifelong learning through establishing constant and continuous access to shared online archival collections, as well as access to Online Electronic Thesis and Dissertations (ETDs) for the global community.
Online Information Search and Access
The challenge for education in the twenty-first century is to prepare students to use information in their work places, in their personal lives, and as responsible citizens. This is clearly stated in the
Report of the ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy as follows:
"Such a restructuring of the learning process will not only enhance the critical thinking skills of students, but will also empower them for lifelong learning and the effective performance of professional and civic responsibilities."
Education is changing from the assembly-line environment of the industrial age offered by textbook teaching to data-rich environment of the information age offered by resource-based learning. In response to this change, information centres have to design new means by which users can maximize the use of these resources with the purpose of gaining access to the information therein. In searching for information, basically six processes are involved as suggested by Kulhthau (2004). These processes are as follows:
Initiation -------------- ►Selection ---------------- ► Exploration ------------- ►Formulation --------- ►Collection ------------- ► Search closure
Recognition of Decision on topic Gathering and Have a focused Focus clear with Here, information search need for new to be investigated locating new perspective and greater interest has been completed,
information information evaluation of new having a sense of relief information begins either satisfaction
In furtherance to how information can or should be searched on the web, the researcher has suggested the following steps:-
1. Analyse your topic: - In order to start a fruitful search, it is always good to analyse the topic at hand. The topic should be broken into main concepts, relevant terms and phrases should be identified. A list of terms or phrases can also be created.
2. Choose a search tool: - Always try to begin a search with the relevant resource for the chosen topic. After searching this resource thoroughly, move on to other resources to find different, broader or more items. Some examples of these search tools are Web pages, Journal articles, Full text and citations etc.
3. Narrowing and Broadening Search: - For fewer and more precise results, it is good to narrow a search. Use more specific search terms and phrases. If the search tool being used has an index, use that to help pick the most specific terms to use for the search, also use hyperlinks if any is provided. For less precise results, try out the broader search. Use less specific and alternative search terms and phrases. Try out using the "OR" searches. Try to change search tools to achieve needed results. Try out the broader search. Use less specific and alternative search terms and phrases. Try out using the "OR" searches. Try to change search tools to achieve needed results.
4. Finally, try other search tips such as
• Always check out for the help or search tips information when using a new search tool. As they will suggest the kind of search operators you use.
• Be aware that most search tools have a list of stop words e.g. and, or, the, in etc. they are usually ignored unless purposely inserted.
• Many databases offer an index for its users. Check out the terms and phrases before engaging in a search.
Information access on the other hand, boarders around ensuring that information users, have the opportunity to get and use information. There should be ease of access to information by users regardless of their location, position or status. Access to information is paramount on users mind. With the advent of technology which further gave birth to the Internet, it has been known for its richness in terms of its information content. It has promoted learning and allowed universal access to information. It allows students to broaden their academic horizon, access information, and communicate with others on the basis of academics. The Internet gives access to educational databases and sites that could make a user to be deviant and perverse as the case may be. Also, the Internet can give access to digitized and uploaded research works and holdings of a university. From the above, therefore, it is pertinent to note that access to information requires literacy skills by the recipient, offers acquisition of livelihood skills and
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