The road to information literacy: the role of ethnography in 'telling the story' of children's information seeking behaviour. Beautyman
The purpose of the research
Who the research is looking at
Why this age group?
Aims of the Research
Two aims were identified, they are:-
To investigate the cognitive and affective
characteristics of Key Stage 2 (KS2)children in the
context of their information seeking behaviour.
To develop a framework or set of guidelines for
developing and promoting Information Seeking
Strategies (ISS) in KS2 children
Objectives of the Research
Five objectives were identified, they are to:-
Identify and evaluate the current methods for teaching
ISS to KS2 children
Identify whether there are gaps in the children’s
knowledge and understanding of information retrieval
Establish the level of teaching of ISS for KS2 children
Objectives of the Research
Establish the current ICT outcomes required from the
e-learning strategy as outlined by relevant government
Establish the role of ISS in the government, LEA and
The methodological approach adopted for this research
was that of interpretivist ethnography.
Interpretivists believe that there are multiple realities,
“cannot exist outside of the social contexts that create
them. Realities vary in nature and are time and context
bound” (Pickard, 2007:p7).
Ethnography involves the researcher participating
“in people’s daily lives for an extended period of time,
watching what happens, listening to what is said,
(Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995:p1)
Reasons for choosing an ethnographic approach
1. ethnography would offer the most in-depth and
holistic approach to answering the research
2. the age of the children that would be involved with
One characteristic of Interpretivist enquiry that is
utilised within this research is that of grounded
Theory is generated by and grounded in the data.
Grounded theory allows the researcher to compare data
as it is being gathered.
The research design is not set out before the start of
the research but is allowed to “flow, cascade, unfold”
(Lincoln and Guba, 1985:p41).
Emergent design allows the researcher to respond to
previously unconsidered routes of enquiry. Opening
up avenues of exploration that were deemed worthy of
Human as Instrument
“classical anthropology utilized virtually no other
instrumentation” (Lincoln and Guba, 1985:p192)
Holistic (able to contextualise)
Ask for clarification
Reflect on the situation as well as self
Gaining Entry to the Field
Initial contact with Head teacher six months before
entry into the field.
Problems encountered and how they were resolved.
Ethical considerations of the research in line with
Northumbria University’s ethical policy.
Fully participant observer within the natural setting of
Field notes capturing snap shots in time of the children’s
Informal chats and discussions in place of formal
Field notes transcribed immediately after the
observations had taken place.
Researcher’s diary and memo.
Grounded theory allowed analysis of data to begin after
the first observation.
After several weeks I had witnessed the same
information seeking behaviour from a group of 7 year
old children and this pattern of behaviour allowed me
to formulate the following questions.
Who is defining the information need?
What strategies are the teachers using to promote
Are the children able to complete their search for
information with or without further support?
As the answers to these questions began to emerge from
the data, it became possible to see snapshots in time
of the information literacy journey of these children.
Writing up continues ......
Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing Grounded Theory. Sage Publications.
Hammersley, M. & Atkinson, P. (1995). Ethnography: Principles in
Practice. 2nd Ed. Routledge.
Lincoln, Y. and Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic Enquiry. Sage Publications.
Northumbria University Ethics Policy. Available at:
nddocs/ (Last Accessed: 07/03/08)
Pickard, A.J. (2007). Research Methods in Information. Facet Publishing.