Information Seeking and Use of Chinese Offshore Students Studying in Australian University Programs

Xiao Li Gao

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    The number of offshore students in Australian higher education is increasing rapidly, especially in the People's Republic of China; however, studies of students' information-seeking behaviour and the influence of local environments are limited. This research aims to understand the information-seeking behaviour of offshore students and the factors involved in their information seeking in an offshore context. This study investigates how Chinese offshore students search for information for their studies and seeks to identify barriers that students encounter in using Australian university library and local information resources in the People's Republic of China.This study adopts Wilson and Walsh's (1996) general model of information behaviour as a useful guide for conducting investigations of the information-seeking behaviour of students in an offshore context. Mixed-methods case study research has been undertaken at two sites. The empirical data gathered are 82 completed responses to a questionnaire, and feedback from 29 semi-structured interviews that involved 24 representative students, three Australian offshore lecturers and two Chinese co-teachers. Site observations were taken to provide enriched contextual information for the study. Focus groups were conducted with two groups of interview participants to verify the collected data and preliminary findings from the data analysis.This research shows that students in this study did not use the Australian university library resources, and that their use of local libraries was also limited. Instead, they used the Internet and other people to obtain information for their studies. The findings reveal that a special social relationship ('guanxi' in Chinese) and the socio-cultural environment are significant factors influencing the students' information-seeking behaviour, but that there are multiple factors involved, including a lack of relevant library resources and library training for offshore students. Further, the students' lack of knowledge of information sources, limited information skills and low level of English competency resulted in their non-use of the Australian university library and their limited use of local libraries. The findings suggest that there is an urgent need to provide pre-requisite library training for offshore students to improve their library knowledge. This would help facilitate the inclusion of library-held resources in information seeking, and develop student information skills to support their studies.This study highlights important issues with existing library services. It reveals the importance of incorporating the students' perspectives into the development of adequate library services to offshore students.This study has successfully used Wilson and Walsh's (1996) general model of information behaviour - developed within a Western context -to investigate offshore students' information seeking in an Eastern cultural setting such as the People's Republic of China. The study provides an enhanced understanding of Chinese offshore students' information-seeking behaviour and the impact of local environments. It offers a knowledge base for future efforts in improving library services to offshore students. This study will benefit all stakeholders: offshore students, librarians, lecturers, offshore program providers and the wider education community concerned with Australian offshore programs in other non-English speaking countries. To generalise the findings to different offshore contexts (e.g. Malaysia, Vietnam, India, etc.), more research is required.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Hider, Philip, Principal Supervisor
    • Soon, Lisa, Co-Supervisor
    • Kennan, Mary Anne, Co-Supervisor
    • Mills, John, Co-Supervisor
    • Ferguson, Keith, Co-Supervisor
    Award date12 Mar 2014
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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