Candidacy Proposal


An investigation into the ‘I can Google it’ information seeking behavior of the academic community and the implications for the delivery of academic library services for developing countries.

1.  Abstract

Research evidence suggests that the Google search engine has become the main information mediator for the academic community; a role earlier attributed to libraries. In the last decade, a considerable amount of research has been carried out on Google from a library and information studies perspective to evaluate the relevancy of results retrieved through Google compared to library sources including library web catalogues, scholarly databases, and federated library searches. The research evidence shows that Google has gained popularity over traditional library sources, mostly based on ease of use and reliability. Library sources are acknowledged as authoritative but clumsy to use. Also of note is the library’s invisible role in making Google more reliable through the library collections. Google Scholar and Google Books directs users to individual library collections through its “find it” button, thereby providing seamless access to resources not held by Google but by libraries. While the expansion of online content and web search developments have a positive impact on information access, it raises questions on the need for libraries and importantly investment on library resources. Additionally, with the Net generation’s high reliance on online media, there are indications of an ‘I can Google it’ mindset by the user community that hinges on bypassing libraries. The purpose of this research is therefore to: (1) understand the extent of this Googling phenomenon through the perceptions of information users in an academic setting; (2) evaluate if the perceptions translate to reality; (2) investigate the implications on academic library service provision; and (4) examine the extent of cohesion of this phenomenon across different economies. While much research has been carried out on Google, there is no evidence of any research using a phenomenological approach to understand this world-wide phenomenon through the experiences of information users; nor has there been any attempt to understand the phenomenon from different economic perspectives. The proposed research addresses these gaps, and proposes to complement the findings from in-depth interviews with a small group of the target population, leading to the designing of an informed survey questionnaire to collect data from a large enough sample.

2.  Objectives

The specific objectives of this study are:

  1. to understand the characteristics of the “I can Google it” information seeking behavior of academic staff and students.
  2. to confirm the extent of this phenomenon.
  3. to investigate if this phenomenon impact the provision of academic library services; and if it does, then to find out how.
  4. to examine the extent of the commonality of the Googling phenomenon across economically diverse nations.

3.  Background to the Research Problem

Libraries, in their many forms, are generally considered as the central information resource for academic research. However, advances in Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), including the introduction of web search engines over the last few decades, have led to many prophesies about the diminishing role of libraries and the need to rebrand libraries to meet the shifting information environments. The following sections will review the proliferation of the Google search engine, how Google has replicated library values, and the implications of the popularity of Google on academic libraries. The need for the current research will also be addressed through the identified gaps.

3.1  The proliferation of Google search engine

The advent of the internet, the World Wide Web, and search engines in the 1990s and the advances in ICTs have made the internet an every-day life experience and have transformed the way people interact with information. The Google search engine was introduced in 1996, developed by Lawrence Page with cofounder Sergy Brin as a PhD research project (Brin & Page, 1998). Google gained popularity within a short period and was widely adopted by the early 2000s, redefining the features of a search engine. According to Hillis, Petit, and Jarrett (2012) search engines prior to Google were prone to spam.

With a wide variety of innovative ways of getting Google in the hands of the masses through networked devices, Google appears to be ubiquitous worldwide. According to Zimmer (2008), “Google has become the prevailing interface for searching and accessing virtually all information on the Web” (p. 82). According to the Webcertain (2014) report, Google continues to be the most prominent search engine generating 100 billion monthly searches, with over 90% market share in 70% of the countries studied.

Comparing Google with library databases, Brophy (2004) states, “Google’s overwhelming popularity has led to its usage as a verb [googling], synonymous with Web searching and often for research itself” (p. 10). The earliest reference to Google being used synonymously for the term “search” can be traced to an editorial of February 2002 by Quint (2002), whereby she predicted Google was becoming a verb, and so she offered the following definition: “Google: (v.) 1. to conduct a search on a Web search engine…; 2. to phrase a search statement in a manner suiting…a typical Web search engine…” (p. 6).

Quint (2002) further addressed information professionals, admonishing them to become more “Google-compliant” in their digital service delivery. Likewise, Carlson (2003) outlined educators’ concerns about undergraduate students’ lack of awareness about the difference between searching on the Web and searching in the library. The first mention of Google as a vibrant phenomenon can be traced to Price (2003) who commented on the emergence of a “Google or bust” (Para 11) mentality by people when it came to information searching on the web. Price’s rhetoric was critical of information professionals, stating that not enough was done to promote library services, which in fact were better in quality.

Googling as a cultural phenomenon in an everyday information seeking context was briefly outlined by Serjeant (2004) in an information technology newsletter. Systematic research into Google, from varying disciplines, appears to have started around 2004. One such research area concentrates on the narcissist attributes of self-googling (e.g. Nicolai, Kirchhof, Bruns, Wilson, & Saunders, 2009; Marshall & Lindley, 2014). Another area of research into ‘googling’ deals with privacy and security issues on the internet (e.g. Andrejevic, 2007; Conti, 2009). Google as a research tool on contexts similar the role of library also followed (e.g. Murtagh & Williams, 2003; Brophy, 2004; Griffiths & Brophy, 2005; Si, Chen & Hou, 2009; Agricola et al., 2013; Martzoukou, 2013; Goergas, 2013). Additionally, information behavior models and theories are being re-visited to capture the changes on information seeking as result (e.g. Spink & Jansen, 2004; Knight & Spink, 2008) with findings that highlights an information behavior that hinges more on reliability over authority of information sources (Lankes, 2007; Rowlands, et al., 2008).

3.2  Google replicating library values and quality

Research on Google in the context of information behavior[1] is not surprising given the nature of Google aiming to be what libraries have always strived for. As reported on Google’s about page (, “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The values and practices traditionally attributed to libraries and scholarly communication process can be seen in: Google’s user centered focus; hypertext attributed to card catalogues; results using PageRanks attributed to citations and advanced searching features; customized search results attributed to specialized library services; Google Scholar attributed to scholarly databases; and Google Books attributed to library monographic collections.

Caufield (2005) suggests that Google gained its popularity by adopting certain library values, most important of these being the user centered approach over immediate corporate profit. The users were given a clutter free interface without the distractions of advertisements and information push (Caufield, 2005; Hillis, Petit & Jarrett, 2012) and, as Price (2003) states, Google gave its users a sense that it was a “people” type of product (para 16).

The principle behind Google can be equated to Bush’s (1945) MEMEX (memory extender). MEMEX was a prodigious hypothetical device, in those paper-based days, for information retrieval and is regarded as the prototype of a hypertext system (Ellis, 1991). According to Bush (1945), the retrieval systems of the time stored information in classificatory hierarchies and, typically, employed linear paths through those classificatory hierarchies to locate material. Furthermore, unless duplicates were made (e.g. double entry catalogue cards), the information could only be stored in one place. In contrast, hypertext takes into account that human mind works differently by utilizing associational trails (Ellis, 1991). In their seminal paper, Brin and Page (1998) state that Google makes heavy use of the structure present in hypertext to search through millions of web pages.

Additionally, Brin and Page (1998) state that the purpose of introducing Google was to overcome the shortcomings of the existing traditional search engines of the time that relied on keywords and consequently were prone to spam. Emphasis was placed on precision and producing highly relevant items on top of the retrieved results. The authors believed, as also evidenced from research (e.g. Spink & Jansen, 2004; Malik & Mahmood, 2009), that users look at only the first few tens of retrieved results. The algorithm behind Google, PageRank works in a similar fashion as that of citations, whereby the more articles that links to another article the higher the latter article’s ranking; and it also takes into account advanced search strategies like Boolean and proximity searching (Brin & Page, 1998) thereby making the search process simpler for the user. According to Caufield (2005), “Google brought to the Web a functional…analog of the process of judging, filtering, and recommending materials that has traditionally been carried out by libraries, publishers, and educational institutions” (p. 560).

With the increase in the number of internet resources, with traditional publishers embracing electronic publishing, and with increased self-publishing through personal/institutional websites, the challenge for the user is no longer physical access (Caufield, 2005). As Obeidat and Genoni (2010) outline, the Web has given more sources of information to the user, reducing the digital divide in some ways. Therefore, as Caufiled (2005) explains, the new challenge for the user is the “intellectual access” (p. 560) of sorting through the search results. Even in this aspect, Google has replicated traditional library values of offering customized results based on user needs. This is done by depositing cookies on the user computer that report browser search history to Google, thereby Google is able to seamlessly offer individualized search results (Caufield, 2005; Hillis, Petit, & Jarrett, 2012). Even with these improvements over earlier search engines, LIS professionals remained skeptical of the value of Google (e.g. Brabazon, 2006) as a research tool when compared to scholarly databases.

Earlier studies have found that Google is superior for coverage and accessibility while library systems are superior for quality of results (Hargittai, 2002; Brophy & Bawden, 2005; Griffiths & Brophy, 2005). This weakness in Google’s results is possibly overcome with the introduction of Google Scholar in 2004. This is supported by recent research on Google Scholar (Howland, Wright, Boughan & Roberts, 2009). Google Scholar differs from the general Google Search in that it differentiates general information sources from information that looks academic. The exact distinctive criterion taken into account by Google Scholar is not evident, and is critically debated in the literature (Shultz, 2007; Hartman & Mullen, 2008; Gray et al., 2012). As Gray et al. (2012) outline, content found in academic repositories or scholarly databases go through some form of editorial process; while self-published material on the web, even though they look scholarly, may not have gone through any, but could be highly ranked by Google Scholar based on its metadata. Studies comparing Google Scholar versus other scholarly databases have been carried out quite widely (e.g. Bakkalbasi et al., 2006; Mullen & Hartman, 2006; Neuhaus, et al., 2006; Kousha & Thelwall, 2007; Robinson & Wusteman, 2007). Neuhaus et al. (2006) compared Google Scholar against 47 scholarly databases and found mixed results. Shultz’s (2007) study compared Google Scholar against PubMed and did not make conclusions as to superiority of any, yet did not dismiss Google Scholar. Howland et al.’s (2009) research concluded Google Scholar more scholarly than a library database. Adriaanse and Rensleigh’s (2011) research compared Google Scholar against two major citation resources: Web of Science and Scopus. They conclude that Google Scholar is not yet a substitute but a supplementary free citation resource for the other two fee-based resources. Therefore, the research to-date is not conclusive that Google Scholar replaces traditional library databases.

Unlike a traditional scholarly database like PubMed, EBSCO, ABI/Inform etcetera, Google is an aggregator that collects information from the sources available on the Web. Google does not own the information content of their search results, except for the Google Books. By 2012, Google had scanned more than 20 million books (Howard, 2012) and as states on their website ( au/googlebooks/library), their aim is the creation of a “comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books”. Considerable research has been carried out to ascertain usability and accessibility of Google Books over other comparable databases. Chen’s (2011) comparison of Google Books to WorldCat (a federated search of major libraries throughout the world) revealed that out of the 500 random samples generated from WorldCat, almost all the books catalogued in WorldCat can also be retrieved through Google books; and the “find in a library” link on Google Books worked for 75% of the searches while about 10% of the books searched had free full views. An earlier study by Ludwig and Wells (2008) concluded that Google Books returned more hits than the library catalog of the University of Buffalo and expressed the futility of investing in enhancing their library catalog. Apart from comparing catalogs, research has also been conducted to assess Google Books’ strength within disciplines. For example, Johnson (2009) assessed the level of coverage on Google Books of 87 minimal core clinical titles, and it was found that all the titles on the list were indexed by Google and 64% of the most current editions were fully searchable.

3.3  Implications on academic library services

While recent research has demonstrated the popularity of Google and has provided ample proof that Google carries value as an information source, Google is criticized by the Library and Information Services (LIS) sector for a number of reasons. First, the probability of commercial bias and an imminent pay-per view paradigm that could have implications on both the public-interest information policies and the role of librarian’s professional service are being debated (Litwin, 2004). Second, the compromise on quality of information is questioned (Gerogas, 2013). In this regard, Brabozan (2006) is highly critical of students using sources sought through Google, stating that there is a flattening of expertise, which she terms as “the Google Effect” (p. 158). A third area under debate is the invisible role of library licensing enabling seamless access to scholarly content searched through Google (Ross & Senney, 2008).

These propositions indicate a need for library administrators to rethink library marketing (Mi, & Nesta, 2006) to make libraries visible as an institution of value. In the early days of electronic libraries, Reich and Weiser (1994) presented a seminal paper proposing future changes. Their argument was that, to stay relevant, libraries would need to reconsider their roles as ubiquitous computing will make libraries’ informational components indistinguishable by weaving themselves into the fabric of everyday life. In addition to ease of access of web searching and the increase in web repositories, the degree to which users adopt “new technologies and how institutions and educators should respond has been the subject of recent commentary and research” (Judd & Kennedy, 2010, p. 1564). The debate about the Net generation, typified as “Digital Natives”, versus earlier generation, referred to as “Digital Immigrants”, suggests that Digital Natives have a natural affinity with technologies while Digital Immigrants are considered as laggards when it comes to the adoption of technology (Prensky, 2001, cited by Judd & Kennedy, 2010, p. 1564). In line with this, Ross and Sennyey’s (2008) criticism of academic libraries suggests that many students increasingly complete university education without going through the library. It is not clear if this includes physical access versus virtual access.

What is clear is that Google adds value to library services over earlier search engines with their control on spam and clutter of advertisements (Hillis, Petit & Jarret, 2012). Additionally, Google has managed to achieve more effectively what libraries always strived for in organizing the world of knowledge (Price, 2003; Caufield, 2005). Also, Google, through its Google Search, Google Scholar, and Google Books, provides users with satisfactory search results (Ludwig & Wells, 2008; Howland et al., 2009; Chen, 2011). Therefore, Google has become the first point of contact for many in the search for information (e.g. Griffiths & Brophy, 2005; Georgas, 2013), thereby creating a need to understand and conceptualize the value of libraries and their relevance in the web-based environment (Kiran & Diljit, 2012).

3.4  The research problem

3.4.1  How do users perceive Library vs Google as an information resource?

Earlier comparative studies on Google from an LIS perspective have tried to assess Google as a competitor, with research attempting to assert the superiority of the library against Google results. The main problem in this approach lies in the comparison of two somewhat different variables. Google searches the web as a whole while library catalogues, single database, or library federated searches are confined to a limited collection. Federated searches has been slow in the uptake by libraries due to the cost factor; and even where offered, as Georgas (2013) outlines, students prefer Google even when users acknowledge library databases and catalogs are more organized and retrieve more accurate results. The preference of Google is predominantly attributed to ease of access, familiarly of interface, and comparable coverage (Fast & Campbell, 2004; Haglund & Olsson, 2008; Georgas, 2013).

As Howland et al. (2009) state, “Google . . . is generally superior to individual databases in retrieving appropriate citations” (p. 232) and this is bound to get better with more publishers sharing their content with Google Scholar. Conversely, even if the citation or abstract is searchable through Google, unless the document is made available from its publisher (on a pay basis or not), or unless the document appears online in another open repository, the user will have to go to a library that can provide the article (Georgas, 2013). Recent research hints that users largely enter the search paradigm through Google and users of the net generation are impatient information consumers (Judd & Kennedy, 2010). However, it is not conclusive regarding how much effort users invest in finding ‘scholarly’ material when faced with papers behind pay-per article protocols or held in a library collection accessible only through their computer network or linked to their credentials. Therefore, there is scope to research the Googling phenomenon from the perspective of how, when, and why users interact with library databases versus Google search engines.

3.4.2  Is the perception of Google the same in developing countries?

Studies on Google have been predominantly carried out in places where library services are very much advanced with strong online library catalogs and/or offering federated searches across their subscribed databases, linked to Google’s “find it” resolvers. How this translates to developing countries’ scenario, where the library sector is largely under developed (Ignatow, 2011; Riyaz, 2013) is not quite evident as adequate research on information seeking behavior has not been conducted in this context. Malik and Mahmood’s (2009) analysis of web search behavior at the University of Punjab University revealed Google to be the most popular search engine. The study however, was not an attempt at understanding how web searching fared against library use. A study in Jordan (Obeidat & Genoni, 2010) indicates the Web overcomes the earlier restrictions of access to academic information in developing countries. This raises questions about whether academics from developing countries are reliant on freely available ‘scholarly’ material. While the proliferation of Googling amongst academics has not been studied at length, Jamali and Asadi (2009) report that scholars are increasingly turning to Google to meet their information needs. Also of relevance for further inquiry in a developing country context would be Neuhous’s (2006) implied English language bias of Google results.

3.4.3  The Research Question

The over popularity of Google has been loosely referred to as the “Googling phenomenon” (Price, 2003; Serjeant, 2004) with a variety of terminology evident in the literature. These include “Googlification” (Quint, 2002), “Google Effect” (Brabazon, 2006), and “Googling” (Quint, 2002; Brophy, 2004). However, the existing research does not explicitly explain what the Googling phenomenon entails and how it impacts the academic community’s information seeking behavior. For the purposes of this study, the academic community is defined to include academics and students engaged in university education.

As demonstrated, research evidence is conclusive that Google has largely taken over the library’s role of information mediator. Users perceive a decreasing need for libraries as information can be sought through Googling (termed “I can Google it”); in contrast, LIS professional perceive the comparison of libraries to Google as a false dichotomy. Therefore, the research questions for this study are:

  • How prevalent is the “I can Google it” attitude among the academic community, and how does this phenomenon influence the academic community’s information seeking behavior?
  • What is the impact of this Googling phenomenon on the provision of academic library services?
  • Is the Googling phenomenon and its implications the same in developed and developing countries?

4.  Significance

The study is significant in a number of ways.

Firstly, it will be of significance in the advocacy of new directions in information provision in academic libraries. Various other studies, from different perspectives on the Googling phenomenon exist in the developed country contexts and are predominantly focused on students’ use of Google; therefore, this study will be a timely extension to these with an equal focus on academics and students.

Secondly, it is the first attempt to understand the information seeking behavior of the Maldivian academic community; and it also aims to shed light onto similarities/differences of the Googling phenomenon in a developing country versus a developed country’s information environment.

Thirdly, the research findings will contribute to the existing discourse on the shifting information behavior of “digital immigrants” versus “digital natives”, thereby enabling the possibility of suggestions to modify theoretical information behavior models.

Fourthly, the phenomenological research approach employed for the study can provide in-depth information about users’ perceptions, their experiences, and value judgments on Google search versus library services. Earlier similar studies have been more experimental and observatory in nature.

Finally, this research is of relevance to other interdisciplinary areas, like records and archives management, mobile computing systems, library education, information literacy, and digital library initiatives.

5.  The Research Design

5.1  Philosophical foundations

This study is embarked upon based on two philosophical assumptions that: (1) the overall hype of “I can Google it” has underlying meanings that need further exploration to unravel how libraries are even more important today than ever before; and (2) libraries need a change of approach to be appreciated as relevant. As Creswell and Clark (2011, citing Thomas Kuhn, 1970) state, while the worldview of professional belief systems is bound to be ingrained in research assumptions and can be subjective, these subjectivisms can be counteracted through appropriate methodological approaches.

Taking these into consideration, a simple constructivist worldview as explained by Creswell and Clark (2011) offers significant insights. However, given the swift changes in technological innovations underlying the Googling phenomena, against an already existing plethora of theories of information behavior, it is believed a pragmatist worldview (practical approach to problems and affairs) will be more appropriate. In this paradigm, the ontology is based on singular and multiple realities with an axiology of multiple stances based on the collected data (Creswell & Clark, 2011, p. 41). According to Creswell and Clark (2012), the pragmatist paradigms typically utilize a mixed methods research approach.

5.2  Theoretical framework

Googling as a means of interacting with information can be situated in theories of information behavior (IB). IB is an area of study that has been scrutinized for a long time from a range of multiple angles, thereby a number of different theories and definitions, as well as categorizations, can be seen in the literature (e.g. Wilson, 2000, Pettigrew, Fidel & Bruce, 2001; Ellis, 2005; Kuhlthahu, 2005; Bates 2010). These include theories of “information behavior”, “information needs”, “information seeking behavior”, and in electronic information environment concepts such as “information search process”, “information retrieval (IR), and “search behavior”. Delving into the definitions of these terminologies would require further elaboration. For the purpose of this document, it is suffice to take Bates’ (2010) explanation:

Information behavior is the currently preferred term used to describe the many ways in which human beings interact with information, in particular, the ways in which people seek and utilize information. Information behavior is also the term of art used in library and information science to refer to a sub-discipline that engages in a wide range of types of research conducted in order to understand the human relationship to information (p. 2381).

Given the numerous models on and around IB in the literature, it is prudent to approach it with caution. Knight and Spink’s (2008) proposed Web search information model simplifies the plethora of IB models into a macro model of human IR behavior on the Web (see Figure 1), and will be of value for this inquiry.

According to the authors:

The proposed model contends that user information behavior begins with an information need, which . . . manifests itself in the use of specific information seeking or searching strategies. Cognitive style relates not so much to intellectual ability, but to preferred methods of operation on the part of the user. . .In the proposed model, a user’s cognitive style is seen as influencing their system-entry IR strategies, with users entering the IR process with pre-existing preferences to browse-seek (information seeking behavior) or search-seek (information searching behavior). In this way, the two types of system interaction are classified as different sets of behavior, even though (1) there is likely to be common behaviors shared by each; and (2) users may periodically swap between the two behavior classifications (p. 229).

This new model combines earlier major models including Wilson’s (1981) model of information behavior, Ellis’s (1989) behavioral model for information system design, Kuhlthau’s (1991) information seeking model, Johnson and Meischke’s (1993) model of information-seeking, Bates’s (1989) berrypicking model, Marchionini’s (1995) information seeking in electronic environmental model, Ingwersen’s (1996) cognitive IT interaction model, Saracevic’s (1996) stratified interactive IR model, Spink’s (1997) search process model, and Choo, et al.’s (2000) behavioral model for the web.

At the core of these models, with relevance to the current study, are overlapping theories like the Principle of Least Effort, also known as Zip’s law of 1949 (Case, 2005), and Mellon’s theory of Library Anxiety developed in 1986 (Katopol, 2005). Zip’s law, tested and verified over time, hinges on user preference on ease of use and accessibility over quality of information (Bates, 2005). This basically manifests to the effort required to search through library stacks, unfamiliar online catalogues, and/or multi platforms of different databases; in comparison to a one portal online search platform like Google. Earlier research on Google versus library databases has demonstrated its ease of use or convenience rather than its effectiveness as making Google popular (e.g. Rowlands, et al., 2008; Goergas, 2013).

This, as well as the library anxiety theory, situates the library in a negative perspective. The library anxiety theory manifested itself from a grounded theory research by Mellon in 1986 on information search process of undergraduate students (Katopol, 2005). It has also been tested and proved on graduate students (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 1999) and was further tested using quantitative methodologies by Bostick (1993), thereby developing five dimensions of library anxiety: (1) barriers with staff, (2) affective barriers, (3) comfort with the library, (4) knowledge of the library, and (5) mechanical barriers.

Therefore, qualitative inquiry into information behavior of the academic community in the Googling environment, informed by these two theories combined with the variables presented in Knight and Spink’s (2008) macro model of human IR behavior on the Web, is believed to yield useful insights into the phenomenon under study.

5.3  Research Approach and Scope

The study is designed as mixed methods research, with both qualitative and quantitative components complementing each other and thereby attempting triangulation. The “I can Google it” mindset is something that cannot be quantified easily as it is based on views, opinions, and thoughts of individuals interacting with information. Hence, for this study, phenomenology forms the basis of the qualitative research component. As Lyotard (1991) and Creswell (2013) explain, phenomenology leads to the examination and description of the essence of the phenomenon by people experiencing it.

The scope of this study is limited to the users of academic libraries, namely university students and academics, to situate the research within a narrow group so as to achieve a degree of precision in the generalizability of results. Furthermore, as Knight and Spink (2008) state, graduate students and academics would “possess discerning value judgments regarding the quality of any information they retrieve” (p. 231).

5.4  Research Methods

The phenomenological component of the research attempts to understand user perceptions of their web information behavior through qualitative in-depth interviewing of a small sample from the target community. This finding will guide in the designing of an informed online survey questionnaire to collect similar information from a larger audience. An online survey approach is selected to increase the response rate (as was demonstrated by Perkins, 2011) so as to lead to the credibility of the findings.

5.5  Data Analysis

The interview data will be transcribed and analyzed for themes using the qualitative data analysis software, NVivo, and the write-up will be a description of the findings around these themes. The survey questionnaire will be administered through the online survey tool, Qualtrics. Additionally, the Qualtrics software can be utilized to send and track participation invitations and reminders as well as display survey results graphically and statistically; and where required the data can be exported to SPSS for advanced quantitative analysis.

5.6  Sampling and Research Instruments

The current study uses a mixed methods approach for the purpose of reaching a level of generalizability by recruiting a large enough sample for a quantitative survey with a small interview sample. As the research attempts to study the Googling phenomenon from the perspectives of developing and developed countries, the Maldives is selected as the sample for a developing country and Australia is selected as the sample for a developed country. These two countries are selected based on a convenience sampling strategy, centered on the researcher’s physical locations.

While the overall target population is the academic community of the Maldives and Australia, for practical reasons, only selected tertiary institutions in each country will be taken as the target population. In the case of Australia, the study will be limited to Curtin University. In the case of the Maldives, sample selection will be limited to: the only university in the Maldives, the Maldives National University (MNU); and the most prominent private tertiary institute, Villa College (VC).

5.6.1  Interview

The interviews will be conducted using a semi-structured interview guide. The main purpose of the interviews with information users of the academic community will be to get an understanding of their information seeking behavior, specifically on ‘googling’ versus the library information resources, when faced with an academic project. The interviews with the academic community are limited only to the under-researched information seeking context in developing countries. There is sufficient literature on comparable developed country scenarios in the use of Google; therefore, user interviews will not be replicated elsewhere. In addition to the users of information, LIS professionals will be interviewed to comprehend how “googling” is impacting the library service provision.

Participant selection will follow a stratified and representative sampling approach, purposively selecting 4 academics, 4 postgraduate students, and 4 undergraduate students from the Maldives (2 from each target institute); 2 LIS professionals from Curtin University and 2 LIS professionals from the Maldives. This sample size can be justified based on earlier similar studies (e.g. Hölscher & Strube, 2000; Lazonder, Biemans & Wopereis, 2000; Saito & Mirva, 2001; Knight & Spink, 2008).

5.6.2  Online Survey

After the first stage of data collection is completed and analyzed, an online survey instrument will be developed based on existing literature as well as the interview analysis. The purpose of the online survey is to collect similar information as from the interviews, but from a larger sample. Participation in the survey will be open to everyone in the target population, aiming to attract at least a 30% response rate from each of the sample institutions. This survey will be replicated in the Maldives and in Australia.

6.  Ethical considerations

Participant selection for the interviews will be carried out by approaching university students and academics through information sought formally from the target institutions. The participants will be given relevant information about the research. Interviews will be conducted only with consenting individuals and consent will be sought in writing. In the reporting of the finding, participants will be identified as an academic, a student, or LIS professional, and personal names will not be recorded in any instance. For the survey component, the covering letter linking the participants to the survey instrument will provide details about the research and will assure the confidentiality of their personal information as well as the information they share via the questionnaire. The proposed data collection from the interviews, as well as the survey, will not pose any risk or harm to the participants. The interviewees might feel some discomfort, but only due to the inherent intrusive nature of in-depth interviews. The approval of the relevant authorities will be sought prior to conducting the research.

7.  Facilities and Resources

Curtin University provides Internet access and printing facilities on campus and it also provides data analysis software on the Curtin dispensed laptops, and hence no additional resources are required to complete the thesis whilst in Australia.

The study will be conducted in two locations, Male’, Maldives and Perth, Australia. The researcher is originally from the Maldives and is located in Perth for the study duration from February 2014 to February 2017, and would need to travel to the Maldives on two occasions for data collection; the first visit to conduct the interviews and the second visit to facilitate the online survey so as to ensure a good enough response rate. The interviews conducted in the Maldives will be held at mutually agreeable and suitable locations for the participants. It is expected this can be arranged without any costs. It is expected Curtin University will bear travel expenses as well as associated costs through its consumables and fieldwork expense account, to the amount prescribed for research students. The difference, if in excess, shall be met by the researcher, personally or through research grants where possible. An estimated general cost breakdown is provided in the table below.

Details Timeframe Estimated Cost (AUD)
Field visit to the Maldives Jan-Feb 2015 (interviewing) $1300.00
Jan-Feb 2016 (survey) $1300.00
Stationery and printing $500.00
Research training and related $1000.00
Total $4100.00

8. Data Storage

In accordance with Curtin University guidelines, all raw data will be stored in a secure location within the Department of Information Studies for a period of seven years.

9. Timeline


10. References

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[1] Conceptualisation of ‘information behaviour’ is addressed later in this document, in the section 5.2.


The Candidacy has been approved and I proudly reproduce the very positive feedback from the assessors:

Assessor 1 (from the library bavckground):

This research proposal investigates the prevalence within the academic community of the use of Google to find scholarly information, and the subsequent implications for the provision of services by academic libraries. In so doing it addresses an issue/ problem which is very current and relevant, and as such, the results would be of great interest and benefit to information providers within the academic community, as well as beyond. While the project is situated more broadly within a well-established body of research, its unique contribution to the corpus of knowledge in this area lies in its focus on information seeking behaviour in academic communities within developing countries, where the number of studies is very limited. The research will produce practical outcomes that can potentially influence the way in which academic libraries develop their service provision.  The proposal is well-written and is based on a thorough review of the literature and careful consideration of appropriate research design and methodology. It has addressed all of the requirements sufficiently.

Assessor 2 (from the Information Technology backgoround):

This looks like an interesting and valuable piece of research. I think the Maldives-Australia comparison is an interesting approach. I am also impressed by the approach the proposal has to Google in relation to university libraries.


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I write as I think. I think as I write.

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