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Information seeking abroad: an everyday-life study of international students

Morten Hertzum (Department of Information Studies, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Jette Seiden Hyldegård (Department of Information Studies, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 29 July 2019

Issue publication date: 19 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate how four international students at a Danish university cope with their study-related and everyday information needs, behaviorally as well as affectively, and how their information seeking blends with their cross-cultural adaptation.


Each of the four participants contributed ten diaries and took part in three interviews during the first semester of their stay.


International students’ information needs and seeking behavior are shaped by their host university but also by cross-cultural, personal and situational issues. While the cross-cultural issues set international students apart from domestic students, the personal and situational issues create individual differences that call for more individually tailored support. The studied international students lacked information about both study-related and everyday issues. These two types of issues were intertwined and experienced as equally stressful. However, study-related information needs were more important, whereas everyday information needs were more difficult to resolve. In addition, participants tended to feel on their own when it came to finding needed information, but studying abroad also had elements of personal growth in meeting life’s challenges.

Research limitations/implications

More participants are needed to investigate how international students’ information seeking evolves over time.


This study contributes detailed information about international students’ study-related and everyday information seeking during their first semester abroad. The study has implications for everyday-life studies of international students’ information behavior and the international classroom in general.



This study has not received external funding. Special thanks to the participants.


Hertzum, M. and Hyldegård, J.S. (2019), "Information seeking abroad: an everyday-life study of international students", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 6, pp. 1298-1316.



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