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Patterns of graduate students' information seeking behavior: a meta‐synthesis of the literature

Amy Catalano (Library Services, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 March 2013




The purpose of this review is to draw out patterns of information seeking behavior of graduate students as described in the empirical research published from 1997 to the present.


A systematic search of databases for studies on information behavior and graduate students was employed in order to retrieve studies for a systematic review. Common themes that emerged from the literature were synthesized into a discussion of behavior patterns. Additionally a study quality analysis was conducted for all retrieved studies using a critical appraisal checklist for library and information research.


This review revealed that graduate students begin their research on the internet much like any other information seeker, consult their faculty advisors before other people, and use libraries in diverse ways depending on the discipline studied. Additionally differences were noted between international and home students, and doctoral and master's students.

Practical implications

The findings of this review indicate that information behavior research conducted on graduate students should delineate between masters' and doctoral students. Further, the findings may inform both academic librarian and faculty practice as to how to assist students with their research by helping them to understand how students typically approach research and how other institutions address common issues with special populations, such as non‐native speakers and distance learners.


No comprehensive review of information behavior studies, encompassing only the behaviors of graduate students has been conducted to date.



Catalano, A. (2013), "Patterns of graduate students' information seeking behavior: a meta‐synthesis of the literature", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 69 No. 2, pp. 243-274.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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