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Profiling information behaviour of nursing students: part 1: quantitative findings

Peter Stokes (Library, Education Centre, Peterborough District Hospital, Anglia Ruskin University, Peterborough, UK)
Christine Urquhart (Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 18 October 2011




The aim of this paper is to profile the information seeking behaviour of nursing students, according to learning style, personality and self‐efficacy in information literacy. Such profiles should help students to reflect on their information seeking, and should help librarians in designing information literacy programmes that are targeted to student needs.


A questionnaire using existing validated scales for learning styles, personality, and information literacy self‐efficacy was developed. The information seeking portion was based on an information behaviour model with core processes (opening, orientation and consolidation) and corresponding micro‐processes. The questionnaire was administered to nursing students (n=261, response rate 74 per cent, 194/261) at one UK university.


Neither information literacy self‐efficacy, nor learning style on their own appeared to change as students progressed. There is a significant association between learning style and self‐efficacy. There appears to be some associations between personality and learning style, and between personality, learning style and preferred information seeking processes. Odds ratios analyses were used to help in preliminary development of profiles. Students with a higher degree of confidence about their information literacy are more likely to: think about their search; work out strategies; and build and adapt their searches. Deep learners take a broad, exploratory approach to searching and score highest for the openness personality trait; whilst strategic learners think about their search, adapt as they progress and score highest for conscientiousness and emotional stability. Surface learners do less planning. Additionally, personality traits (which are essentially stable over time) are positively or negatively associated with various aspects of information seeking.

Research limitations/implications

The sample size limits the extent of statistical analyses and possible generalizations. The planned qualitative research may help in confirmation of the information seeking profiles.


The research extends existing research evidence on the impact of personality and learning style on student information behaviour by including an information literacy scale and information seeking micro‐processes.



Stokes, P. and Urquhart, C. (2011), "Profiling information behaviour of nursing students: part 1: quantitative findings", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 67 No. 6, pp. 908-932.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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