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Unveiling the Truth: Doctoral Students’ Awareness of their Online Information-Seeking Behaviors

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Research paper
Roundtable presentation

Saturday, December 5, 10:15–11:00 am PST (Pacific Standard Time)
Presentation 2 of 3
Other presentations:
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Jessica Bruch  
Douglas Lare  

The session is an overview of a study on doctoral students awareness of their online behaviors and the impact that has on their online research strategies. The participants in the study used the"ThinkingApp" to gain feedback on how they are conducting research to complete doctoral level coursework successfully.

Audience: Teacher education/higher ed faculty, Technology coordinators/facilitators, Library media specialists
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Google Chrome
ThinkingApp -Google Chrome Extension
Topic: Online tools, apps & resources
Grade level: Community college/university
Subject area: Language arts, Higher education
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
Computational Thinker
  • Students collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making.
Influencer Disclosure: This session includes a presenter that indicated a “material connection” to a brand that includes a personal, family or employment relationship, or a financial relationship. See individual speaker menu for disclosure information.

Proposal summary


Upon reviewing the literature, many of the theories that are proposed for information- problem solving are still in the model stage, therefore there are six models, not theories, that exist concerning information-seeking behaviors. (Rather &Ganaie, 2017). These models have been developed by Kuhlthau (1992), Dervin (1992), Wilson (1981, 1996, 1999), Ellis (1993), Eisenberg & Berkowitz (1988, 1990), and Urquhart & Rowley (2007) proposed after several years of studying post-graduate students in a variety of disciplines and settings, mostly out of the United States. These models focus more on the process the participants took for information-seeking rather than the final product behind the research.


The qualitative components of the study will involve semi-structured interviews, participant observations, and focus groups where participants will answer and discuss questions, developed by the researcher, with a focus on the data gathered regarding their online information-seeking behaviors.
This study also utilizes a participatory action research design. Action Research calls upon the participants to have an active role in the decision making throughout. Research involves observing and reflecting through discussions. Focus groups will be utilized as student discuss their research journal’s analytics.

Purposeful sampling will be utilized for this study. Purposeful sampling enables the researcher to select individuals and settings for the study because “they can purposefully inform an understanding of the research problem” (Creswell & Poth, 2018, p. 326). The researcher’s subject selection of doctoral students at a Northeastern, Pennsylvania from one cohort during one semester of coursework will minimize variables in the study.

Data Collection:
The data collection procedures involved interviews and observations to shed light on the research questions.

1. Can a student's awareness of their information-seeking behaviors impact the development of their online research strategies?
• What impact does access to an individual’s Targeted Online Learner Analytics (TOLA) have on the overall development of their online research strategies?
2. How do peer discussions influence research strategies?

The procedures for data analysis involves coding the data to look for emerging themes. The data collected through the focus
groups will be analyzed using Grounded Theory procedures for coding. Fieldnotes taken during participant observations will be analyzed by looking to see if any themes emerge that connect to the discussions during focus groups and interviews.


The expectation for this study is to determine if doctoral students having the ability to view and discuss with peers their online learner analytics concerning their information-seeking behaviors will have (if any) an impact on their online research abilities. If so, will that impact the successful completion of course requirements at the doctoral level thus their completion of the doctoral program.

Data will be collected beginning October 2020 and ending January 2020. The researcher will finalize the dissertation by May 2020.


According to the literature, the need to be comprehensive and up to date in reviewing the literature is perhaps never more significant than in the doctoral dissertation (Barry, 1997; Bruce, 2001; Chu & Law, 2007; Macauley & Green, 2009; Madden, 2014; Spezi, 2016).

Overall, doctoral students may benefit most from using electronic sources. Databases will enable them to cover the literature comprehensively in their fields.
Researchers have identified variables for successful completion of a doctoral degree. These variables include the ability to complete research and collaborate with peers. (Council for Graduate Schools, n.d.; Gisemba Bagaka’s, Badillo, & Rispinto, 2015; Golde, Dore, 2001)


American Library Association. (2018). Informational literacy. Retrieved from D=33553
Barry, C. A. (1997). Information skills for an electronic world: Training doctoral research students. Journal of Information
Science, 23(3), 225.
Berg, B. L. (2004). Methods for the social sciences. Qualitative Research Methods for the Social
Sciences. Boston: Pearson Education.
Blignaut, A. S. and Els, C. J. (2010), “Comperacy assessment of postgraduate students’ readiness for higher education”, The Internet and Higher Education, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 101-107. Bronstein,
Bruce, C. (2001), “Interpreting the scope of their literature reviews: significant differences in research students’ concerns”,
New Library World, Vol. 102 No.4/5, pp. 158-166Carr, N. (2010). The shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains [E-reader version]. Retrieved from:
Chu, S. K. and Law, N. (2007), “Development of information search expertise: postgraduates’ knowledge of searching
skills”, Libraries & the Academy, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 295-316.
Coffey, H. (2011). Critical Literacy. Retrieved August 25, 2010 from
Conway, K. (2011), “How prepared are students for postgraduate study? A comparison of the information literacy skills of
 commencing undergraduate and postgraduate information studies students at Curtin University”, Australian
Academic & Research Libraries, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 121- 135.
Cottrell, G. (2017). Thinking outside the box: A descriptive study focusing on the application of learning analytics on
instructional design (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA.
Creswell, J. & Poth, C.W. (2018). Qualitative inquiry & research & design: Choosing among five approaches (4th ed).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Eisenberg, M., and R. Berkowitz. (1988). Curriculum initiative: an agenda and strategy for library media programs.
Norwood, N.J.: Ablex.
Eisenberg, M., and R. Berkowitz. (1990). Information problem solving: The Big Six skills approach to library & information
skills instruction. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex.
Gisemba Bagaka’s, J., Badillo, N., & Rispinto, S. (2015). Exploring Student Success in a Doctoral Program: The Power of Mentorship and ResearchEngagement. International Journal of Doctoral Studies (Vol. 10). Retrieved from
George, C. A., Bright, A., Hurlbert, T., Linke, E. C., St Clair, G. and Stein, J. (2006), “Scholarly use of information: graduate
students’ information seeking behavior”, Information Research, 11(4), Paper 272.
Heading, D., Siminson, N., Purcell, C. and Pears, R. (2010). Finding and managing information: generic information literacy
and management skills for postgraduate researchers. International Journal for Researcher Development. 1(3).
Pp. 206-220.
Leu, D., Forzani, E., Burlingame, C., Kulikowich, J., Sedransk, N., Coiro, J., & Kennedy, C. (2014). The new literacies of online
research and comprehension: Assessing and preparing students for the 21st century with common core State
Standards.wind Retrieved from

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Jessica Bruch, Pleasant Valley
Douglas Lare, Learnics

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