Analysing information behaviour of aspiring undergraduates: how prospective students are using micro-blogging platforms to meet information needs

Dodd, Laura (2018) Analysing information behaviour of aspiring undergraduates: how prospective students are using micro-blogging platforms to meet information needs. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Every year more than half a million aspiring undergraduates apply to undertake an undergraduate degree in the UK (UCAS, 2017). Despite concerns however about how these prospective students are receiving information (Andrew, 2106; The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, 2014), and the speculation of an information gap (Moogan et al., 1999): relatively little is known about the information behaviour of aspiring undergraduates (Punj and Staelin, 1978; Moogan et al.,1999). Notable changes in recent years (e.g. the increase in university fees) also mean that it cannot be assumed that older data that does exist remains accurate.

This research adopted a novel methodology and captured 494,180 tweets that represented a 16-month long journey that aspiring undergraduates take, from initial decision-making processes and applications through to the end of their first semester at University. Terms and tokens taken from literature and word frequency created datasets that were sampled and analysed using content and discourse analysis in order to consider how the information needs of aspiring undergraduates were, or weren’t, being met. The methodology has been successful in achieving a wider understanding of the aspiring undergraduate context and journey. Findings expand on existing knowledge and uncover some new behavioural characteristics in this context. Whilst the research outlines limitations in the knowledge, skills and capabilities of aspiring undergraduates and hurdles (e.g. for certain demographics), it also identifies successes and some exemplary practices (i.e. from UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). This research updates and reframes how aspiring undergraduates are understood, and sheds light on how they think and understand the world. University is a significant personal and financial investment for students and this intelligence can be used by those supporting aspiring undergraduates to increase the efficiency of support, which could, for example, potentially help reduce the number of students ending up in wrong courses or universities or even prematurely ‘dropping out’ of university.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: G500 Information Systems
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Computer and Information Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Ellen Cole
Date Deposited: 23 May 2019 17:20
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 22:22

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