Original Research

Information-seeking behaviour of security studies students: A case study

Theodora Thindwa, Winner D. Chawinga, Gift Dube
SA Journal of Information Management | Vol 21, No 1 | a1048 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v21i1.1048 | © 2019 Theodora Thindwa, Winner D. Chawinga, Gift Dube | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 October 2018 | Published: 30 May 2019

About the author(s)

Theodora Thindwa, Department of Governance, Peace and Security Studies, Mzuzu University, Mzuzu City, Malawi
Winner D. Chawinga, Department of Information Sciences, Mzuzu University, Mzuzu City, Malawi
Gift Dube, Library and Learning Resources Centre, Mzuzu University, Mzuzu City, Malawi

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Background: Undergraduate students need information for various reasons. However, it is not a straightforward activity in retrieving the relevant information for accomplishing various needs. This research is therefore justified as it aims at understanding information needs of undergraduate students who are drawn from security organisations.

Objectives: The main objective of this study was to analyse information needs, sources and seeking patterns of security studies at Mzuzu University.

Method: The study adopted a mixed methods approach by sending a questionnaire to 108 students and conducting a set of three focus group discussions. The study was informed by Kuhlthau’s information search process model.

Results: The study finds that most students preferred Internet as a source of information. The study further finds that most students need information mainly for academic activities, accomplishing assignments, preparing examinations and completing research projects. Most students preferred the search engines as the starting point for an information search. Feelings proposed by Kuhlthau’s information search process model, which include anxiety, optimism, uncertainty and excitement, were experienced by most of the students as they started an information search for completing an assignment. However, there exist a number of challenges that affect students’ information behaviour, such as the lack of online information literacy skills, poor Internet access and shortage of computer laboratories.

Conclusion: Unlike previous studies, this study establishes that the information needs of upgrading security studies students are focussed more on academic and work-related purposes. Information seeking and gathering is a key component of their work, as they gather information related to criminal activities and general intelligence. Upgrading undergraduate students have additional information needs that go beyond their academic needs. There is a need to design information interventions that would enhance their information search experience based on some of the pointers provided by Kuhlthau’s model. In view of the above, it can be argued that Internet is becoming a popular source of information in the 21st century; hence, there is a need to provide e-support that would reduce students’ negative feelings and enhance their Internet search process, thereby improving the overall quality of education.


Security studies; information needs; Kuhlthau’s information search process model; information seeking; Internet.


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