vol. 13 no. 4, December, 2008
I am enrolled as a part-time candidate in the PhD programme at Massey University's College of Education since July 2004 and the past four years have seen the development of the research proposal, preliminary examinations, ethics design and approval, fieldwork and analysis of results. I am now engaged in writing up the chapters for my thesis. I have decided to shape my thesis around a series of journal articles that I am preparing and some surrounding chapters that put the research, methodology and results into context. The first of these articles has been prepared for the ISIC Conference and will appear in Information Research. The project itself focuses on how Senior Māori secondary school students seek information in different cultural contexts, with a particular focus on information barriers.
All student participants in this study were of Māori descent and the design of the methodology and data gathering instruments has focused on making them culturally relevant. This was a major challenge due to the paucity of similar projects being undertaken in indigenous communities in New Zealand and overseas. As I am investigating how students seek information in two different cultural contexts, I had to firstly identify information seeking situations that they could readily relate to. In the generic (everyday) context, I chose career information seeking and information seeking for academic achievement (in the context of homework). In the Māori context, I chose to focus on the concept of tikanga (cultural rules) and whakapapa (genealogy) as these are central to the foundation of Māori culture.
The research methodology I have used is a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods and due to the research participants involved I have incorporated elements of tikanga Māori (Māori cultural customs) into the application of the methodology.
Another major challenge was navigating the human ethics approval process; this was at times quite fraught due to the complexities surrounding the layers of consent that needed to be obtained. This led to a few changes to the methodology. Instrumental to any cultural situation involving Māori is the concept of kanohi ki te kitea (a face seen). A substantial amount of time was spent applying for and being granted access to the research participants. As the consent process was much easier to obtain for students 16 and over, I chose this as one of my criteria for participation in the project. The research participants also needed to be of Māori descent and I had to negotiate with school authorities for them to access their student database to identify these for me. As Māori students have a tendency to leave school early (16 is the legal age for school leavers in New Zealand), identifying schools with significant numbers of Māori students in the senior section of the school was quite difficult
The data gathering phase of the project consisted of the following steps:
An anonymous questionnaire completed by Māori students aged 16 years and over in years 11, 12, 13 (final 3 years of school). The questionnaire consisted of 24 questions through which the student participants identified the information sources that they use to assist them to find information in the four different information seeking areas identified careers, academic achievement, tikanga (cultural customs) and whakapapa (genealogy). The questionnaire focused on identifying barriers that inhibit access to information. Four schools agreed to participate in the research project and between them they had 190 students that were identified as being eligible to participate in the study. The questionnaire was distributed at these schools and 139 were returned as completed.
Questionnaire participants were also invited to take part in focus groups and there were 45 participants overall in this phase of the project. The focus group questions probed further into the differences that occur in their information seeking behaviour in the two different cultural worlds that they participate in. An interesting aspect of this part of the project is the investigation of the similarities and differences in information barriers between the two worlds (this was the subject of my ISIC Conference paper).
I am now at the stage where I have analysed the results from the questionnaire and focus groups and have started to write up the methodology chapter for my thesis and articles on various aspects of the study (starting with the paper on information barriers).
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