An ethnographic investigation of information seeking in the primary classroom

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis describes a school-based study that was undertaken to investigate the information-seeking behaviour of primary school children. A review of the literature in the area of child information behaviour was undertaken. Five key areas of interest were identified for investigation: how children define success in information seeking and how this contrasts with adult perspectives on the same; the support that children require when seeking information at different ages; the influence of age on children's information channel preferences; the influence that situation or context have on child information-seeking behaviour;the effect of gender on each of these dimensions. Readings in the area revealed few studies where authentic, teacher-imposed information activities had been studied. Rather than relying on the researcher-designed tasks that were the focus of a majority of studies, existing classroom tasks derived from the national curriculum were the basis of the investigation. An ethnographic approach was taken involving data collection via observation, making extensive use of teacher-created data collection tools such as post-task evaluation forms.;Information artefacts such as posters and reports created by children during the tasks were analysed then used as a discussion point in focus groups. Teachers'perspectives were gathered by collecting and analysing their assessment feedback and also via interviews. A parallel investigation of children's leisure information seeking behaviour was undertaken using a survey and focus group approach. Two classes at either end (9-10 years and 11-12 years) of the concrete operational stage of development were studied. The findings have implications for support for children's information seeking, information task design, evaluation design and search system development. A further contribution is in the description of a method for evaluating child information-seeking behaviour via the discussion, in focus groups, of the pieces of work orartefacts produced during information tasks.
Date of Award19 Sept 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorMonica Landoni (Supervisor) & Ian Ruthven (Supervisor)

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