vol. 13 no. 4, December, 2008


ISIC Conference, Vilnius, 2008 - Abstracts from the Doctoral Workshop

Developing an information seeking behaviour profile for nursing and midwifery students

Peter Stokes
Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, UK SY23 3AS


Nurses handle information all the time including processes from patient counselling through recording of care to reflection on practice, with increasing emphasis on evidence based practice. With the growth of Web 2.0, nurses will need to work with fellow professionals and patients in different ways, and nursing students will need to acquire more sophisticated information seeking skills to cope with new roles. Those demands impact on the curriculum in higher education, nursing educators and librarians. With a large student cohort of around 185,000 nursing students enrolled at higher education institutions in 2006/7 (Higher Education Statistics Agency 2008), a validated model of information behaviour in this group would inform design and evaluation of information support services for a diverse student group, composed of mature students as well as the school-leavers.

Research question

Most models of Information Seeking Behaviour (ISB) (Wilson 1999: Ellis 1989; Ingwersen 1996) concentrate on the stages of the information seeking process; with less emphasis on the influences of the individual differences of the searcher (although Wilson includes some psychological and mass communication theories). More recent models (Foster 2004) may apply to information seeking that is less purposive but require further validation to assess transferability. Recent work by Heinstrom (2003; 2006) investigated the information seeking behaviour of postgraduate students in terms of their personality and seeking styles, grouping students into three categories of seeking 'types', and this approach may be applicable to undergraduates. The proposed research will analyse the information searching and seeking behaviour of undergraduate nursing students using Foster's model as a base for questionnaire development (to analyse information seeking preferences). In addition the research will assess personality traits, self-efficacy and learning styles of the students, to form a rounded information seeking behaviour profile for each student, and if possible, to identify groups of information seeking behaviour profiles that would help in planning training and support programmes. Another question concerns the changes that may or may not take place during undergraduate education.


The research design uses a complementary mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative) approach. The sample is nursing students enrolled on nursing courses at a Higher Education Institution. More than 500 individuals are currently being asked to participate in the quantitative analysis (in view of the data analysis requirements). The sample is a snapshot of several cohorts at different stages in their programme, and of different 'types' of student e.g. undergraduate, postgraduate, continuing education nurses etc. Students are being approached in the classroom (tutor cooperation granted), initially to be informed about the research and then a week later, after a period of reflection, to complete the questionnaire. The sample for qualitative research will be selected, initially randomly, from the sample used in the quantitative analysis. Pre-validated research tools for personality (Mini-Markers) (Saucier 1994), learning styles (ASSIST) (Entwistle 1997) and self-efficacy (Kurbanoglu 2006) are being used to enhance validity and reliability. These tools have been selected in part due to their brevity as the overall questionnaire length must be manageable to provide meaningful results. Approval for the Learning Styles questionnaire (shortened version) obtained from original developer (Noel Entwistle); approval for 17-item version of Self-Efficacy scale obtained from developer (Serap Kurbanoglu); the Mini-Markers tool is available online for educational use.

A pilot study has been performed to test face validity of the information seeking behaviour section of the questionnaire and to ascertain whether the length is suitable. Structured and semi-structured interviews will be used for the qualitative data collection on information seeking processes.

Exploratory factor analysis will be used to determine any clustering of variables, and subsequently mapped to Foster's categories. Previous research within healthcare (Huang 2006) and education by the ETL project (Enhancing Teaching through Learning Environments 2006) will guide the method.

Progress to date

Statistical advice and ethics

The study design has been verified by a statistician from Cambridge University, and ethical approval granted by Cambridgeshire 3 Research Ethics Committee, Faculty of Health and Social Care at Anglia Ruskin University. In addition the Research and Development departments of the 13 local NHS organizations have also granted approval.

Pilot study

A small pilot study was undertaken to test the face validity of the questionnaire. Fifteen students were asked to fill in the questionnaire and note any concerns or difficulties. The results were generally favourable with the only minor concern being the overall length of the questionnaire. As has been previously stated the scales for personality, self-efficacy and learning styles are already at their minimum so reducing the questionnaire further would potentially compromise the results. Also, to ensure the maximum potential of the study it is necessary for all participants to complete all three of these scales to enable the maximum possible analysis. It was therefore decided that the questionnaire should remain in its entirety for the study.

Currently students are being approached to take part in the study and over 100 have completed the questionnaire thus far.

The study is expected to be completed by 2011.

How to cite this paper

Stokes, P. (2008). Developing and information seeking behaviour profile for nursing and midwifery students. Information Research, 13(4) paper wks13. [Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/13-4/wks13.html]
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