Running Head: INTERVIEW OF A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT 1 Interview of a High School Student Staci M. Novak Emporia State University
Running Head: INTERVIEW OF A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT 2 Interview of a High School Student There are many theorists that talk about how individuals go about searching forinformation. Theorists like Dervin, Grover, Kuhlthau, Bates, and Wilson have spent many hoursresearching and perfecting their methods of information seeking behavior. However, if younever test these theories, they remain abstract concepts that may mean little in the real world.That is why I conducted a diagnostics interview testing the hypothesis of Kuhlthau’s InformationSeeking Process or ISP.Library Experience of Interview Subject My interview subject, Student Z, is a fifteen-year-old freshman in high school originallyfrom South Carolina. Her experience level in relation to searching for information, in myopinion, is average for a high school student. She didn’t really start using the library until shewas in the seventh grade. Her English teacher took them to the library to check out books theycould read for pleasure. She said she has used the library once before for research purposes,otherwise her use of the library simply extends to finding “a good book to read.” In her previous research experience, she used mostly Internet search engines such asGoogle, and also used print sources like books. She has never used a database to findinformation. In this search for information, she reported that she has quite a bit of backgroundknowledge regarding her topic, which is the life of the late entertainer, Michael Jackson. Sheand her classmates were allowed to choose their subject based on their interests. She choseMichael Jackson because of her previous familiarity and thought this would be a greatopportunity to elaborate and deepen her understanding of his life.Cognitive/Learning Style
Running Head: INTERVIEW OF A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT 3 In my experience with Myers-Briggs and from my observations of Student Z, I wouldventure that she is an ESFP. She is most definitely an extrovert that is not shy to give heropinion or participate in an interview. She is very flexible, at times is spontaneous, andaccording to her, “likes to make work fun.” When asked how she learns best, she reported thatshe is a visual learner who likes to see pictures or watch movies when learning, but also a doer inthat she likes to work with other people and kinesthetically create a product.Behaviors During our interview, I observed several behaviors. First, her communication style andbody language was very positive. Student Z was very open and friendly and was willing toparticipate. She smiled a lot during the interview and had an even and clear tone of voice. Sheseemed very confident in her actions with this project, and was willing to talk about how shewent about finding and putting her research together. In my observation of Student Z, her technical skills are limited for someone her age. Sheuses a cell phone and an MP3player, but in her investigation she only used the computer for afew sources, and not at all to create the project in which she was researching. Developmentally,she would fall under the category of ten to eighteen. As an adolescent, she has increasedindependence from her parents, but increased dependence on her peers. She is seeking heridentity as an individual, and also has a firmer sense of self than her younger counter parts.Information Need and Search Student Z’s information need was prompted by a project in her 9th grade communicationsclass. Her teacher gave her an assignment in which she had to choose a person in Americanhistory that has endured despite his or her struggles in life.
Running Head: INTERVIEW OF A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT 4 In order to fulfill this information need, Student Z went through several steps to findinformation. First, she searched the online card catalog to see what books she could find. Shewas disappointed in her search, because the results only showed websites related to her topic.Next, she checked the biography section of the school library. She looked through severalbiography books before she finally found some information about Michael Jackson. For theproject, the students had to have two print sources. Before finding the Michael Jacksonbiography, Student Z said she felt, “frustrated and ready to select a new person.” After finding her print sources, she went back to the websites found on the schoollibrary’s catalog. Her search of the websites only proved partly fruitful. One led to Google,another led to Wikipedia, and the others were links to celebrity biography websites. She wassomewhat disappointed with the lack of websites because her teacher said they were not allowedto use Wikipedia as a reliable source and there was “way too much information on Google and itwould have taken forever to search through it all.” She searched the library catalog for print sources first because the teacher required themto have two print sources in order to research their person, so she wanted to make sure she hadenough information. She then went to the websites because, according to Student Z, “I usuallygo to Google or the Internet first when I need to find something out. It’s what I’m most used to.” During the search process, Student Z had mixed feelings. At first, she was very excitedbecause she is a huge fan of Michael Jackson. During her search for print sources, she wasfrustrated and angry because she couldn’t find what she was looking for. She also reported thatshe felt anxious because “we only had a certain amount of time to do research and then constructour project. It’s worth a lot of points and I really want to get a good grade.” Once she had found
Running Head: INTERVIEW OF A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT 5all of the necessary information, she said that her anxiety went away and she was excited againand also relieved. Student Z determined that her search was successful. She found her required printsources and also enough information from the biography websites to complete the project for herclass. When asked if any part of the search was confusing she replied, “I don’t think any part ofthe search was confusing because I had been to the library once before to do some research andseveral times finding books that I wanted to read. I’m just happy I found the information Ineeded!” While researching her project topic, Student Z received minimal assistance byprofessionals. She felt like she didn’t really need help from the librarians, because her teacherwas there to help her. When she needed to find the biography section of the library, she askedher communications teacher to help her. She said she didn’t ask the librarians because theylooked busy behind the desk and didn’t really come out from behind it to see if the studentsneeded anything. In the process of conducting my interview, it came to my attention that Student Zencountered several barriers. First, she encountered Dervin’s first assumption that only objectiveinformation is valuable (Case, 2007). I think had she searched for more books or searched thedatabases, she would have found more information related to her search. Instead, she seemed tosettle for what she found and then moved on. I also think she ran into the second barrier thatsays more information is always better (Case, 2007). When she searched the library catalog, oneof the results was a website that led to Google. It was here that she could have possibly foundmore information, but there was too much to sift through.
Running Head: INTERVIEW OF A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT 6Search Process Compared to Kuhlthau’s ISP While conducting this interview, I believe Student Z’s search process followed some, butnot all, of Kuhlthau’s ISP. First, I don’t believe my interviewee went through the first stage oftask initiation (Thomas, 2004). She seemed pretty confident in that she immediately knew overwhom she would focus her search. Instead, I think she went directly to the second step of topicselection (Thomas, 2004). I don’t think she went through the pre-focus exploration (Thomas,2004). She did, however, experience the uncertainty principle when she was having troublefinding sources. It was at this point where she almost switched her focus to another person, butsoon enough, hit the focus formulation and information collection stages almost simultaneously(Thomas, 2004). During the focus formulation stage, she found all of her necessary resourcesand went back to being excited about her research project. She is currently in the last stage,search closure, in that she is creating a poster with the information she found.More Productive and Effective Search Process I think Student Z’s search process could have been more productive and effective if shehad narrowed her search more specifically. Her search for information of the life of MichaelJackson was very general and therefore only found very general information. If she had beenmore specific in searching for his life struggles or how he had persevered, I think she would havefound more detailed and in depth information. I also firmly believe that if she had enlisted thehelp of an information professional, she would have had fewer feelings of anxiety andfrustration. Lastly, I feel that the research completed by Student Z would have been moreproductive and effective if she had not limited her search to the library catalog and Internet. She
Running Head: INTERVIEW OF A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT 7may have found more credible and more specific sources if she had tried to access a databasethat would have provided her with newspaper articles as well.Assistance by Service Provider After conducting this interview, I was disappointed by the lack of support by informationprofessionals. I feel that Student Z was partly responsible for lack of interaction because shedidn’t see how the librarian could help her to physically find the location of a source, let aloneassist in finding information pertinent to her research. I feel the information professionals werealso to blame because they were not appropriately providing a service to a user with aninformation need. I think Student Z could have avoided her state of anxiety if she had requestedassistance from, or had been approached by the librarians. Instead of feeling frustrated by notbeing able to find print sources, she could have begun her search by relaying her informationneeds to the professionals, thus being better guided in her search, and ultimately finding morepertinent and specific information.Conclusion An information need can arise for a multitude of reasons. Someone may be interested inbuying a new car or a house. An information need may arise out of a health issue or a researchproject. There are a variety of studies that map out information seeking behavior in anassortment of ways, but no one need, behavior, or seeker is the same. To truly understand thesetheories and behaviors, we, as librarians, must do our best to understand the context and needs ofthe information seeker whether the need be simple or complex.
Running Head: INTERVIEW OF A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT 8 ReferencesCase, D. O. (2007). Looking for information: A Survey of research on information seeking, needs and behavior. (2nd ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Thomas, N. P. (2004). Information literacy and information skills instruction: Applying research to practice in the school media center. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.