Information Sources Consulted by Teens

When faced with an information need, high school students are generally willing to consult a wide variety of sources, depending on the situation. Examples of this can be seen in Latrobe and Havener’s 1997 study of an eleventh-grade honours math class and Agosto and Hughes-Hassell’s 2005 study of urban teens. Several studies indicate that the most commonly used sources for both school-related and personal information needs were the Internet, libraries and other people (Lorenzen 2001; Madden, Ford, and Miller 2007). The use of computer-based resources has been a subject of study in the field of Library and Information Science for many years (e.g. Barlow, Karnes and Marchionini 1987; Jacobson and Ignacio 1997), but the recent increase in the importance of computers has been indicated in the literature, and many studies are focusing on how high school students use computer and Internet-based resources (e.g. Fidel et al. 1999, Scott and O’Sullivan 2005).

When high school students consulted other individuals for help in filling their information needs, it was generally because of the ability of the student to hear the other person’s tone, ask for clarification, and be mutually understood (Latrobe and Havener 1997). The individuals most commonly consulted for information-seeking help were parents and family, friends, teachers and librarians (Barranoik 2001; Agosto and Hughes-Hassell 2005). Although personal interaction is often sought when conducting a search for information, and books are considered extremely valuable when doing research (Madden, Ford and Miller 2007), high school students are more often turning to the Internet as their primary source of materials, particularly for school-related needs (Shenton 2007). While students often use the Internet exclusively, it is also common for the Internet and other resources to be used in combination with each other (Lorenzen 2001).

It has been found in studying the information-seeking habits of teens that they tend to “use the most accessible information sources first, before looking further afield” (Shenton 2004, 69). The increased use of the Internet coincides with this theory, as a major draw for student use of the Internet is that it is found to be convenient and immediately accessible (Julien and Barker 2009; Fidel et al. 1999). It has also been found that students consider electronic resources to be generally faster and easier to use than traditional print resources (Jacobson and Ignacio 1997; Chung and Neuman 2007). A certain level of anxiety over the use of print resources has also been found, although many students prefer to work with information in a more concrete manner and often print their relevant results (Chung and Neuman 2007; Jacobson and Ignacio 1997). Students were also found to prefer the interactive nature of the electronic environment, believing the computer to have done the work of filtering and sorting the available information for them (Chung and Neuman 2007). Students also consider the Internet to be superior to print resources in that there is a wider variety of formats available, and the information is more likely to be up-to-date (Fidel 1999). Julien and Barker (2009) indicated that many students in their study turned to the Internet because of a belief that there were relevant, accurate and credible resources available to them online.