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Young people: a phenomenographic investigation into the ways they experience information

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journal contribution
posted on 10.09.2013, 12:26 by Marian Smith, Mark Hepworth
This paper reports on a phenomenographic investigation into the ways young people, aged between eleven and eighteen years of age, experience information in both their academic and everyday life. Experience here is interpreted as the relationship between the subject (the young person) and the object (information). This research builds on previous studies of people’s experience of information. However, other studies have had either a different focus, such as, focusing on information literacy, or, different respondents. Therefore this research addresses a gap in the knowledge. Three research questions are addressed in this paper: What are the qualitatively different ways young people experience information? What are the logical relationships between the categories of description? Can a holistic picture of young people’s relationship with information be composed from knowledge of the different ways young people experience information? The study used a phenomenographic research approach to elicit and describe the qualitatively different ways in which young people experienced information. A purposeful sample of forty-one young people aged eleven to eighteen years participated in the study. The data, which were gathered through drawings and semi-structured interviews, were subjected to a rigorous process of phenomenographic analysis. The outcome of phenomenographic analysis is an outcome space consisting of a finite set of categories of description which, with their relationships, explain the different ways people experience phenomena in the world. In phenomenographic research, the focus is on the collective rather than the individual experience. The purpose of the study was therefore to highlight differences within the sample. In this study, six ways of experiencing information were identified: knowledge of sources of information; receiving information; process of finding information; store of unprocessed information; processing information; and use of information. The findings demonstrate some broad similarities with other studies. However, there are significant differences. The paper, therefore, gives a new insight into young people’s experience of information. It also highlights the complex and multi- faceted way that young people experience information. These views help to understand what young people need to know and be able to do.



  • Science


  • Information Science


SMITH, M. and HEPWORTH, M., 2012. Young people: a phenomenographic investigation into the ways they experience information. Libri, 62 (2), pp. 157 - 173.


© Walter de Gruyter


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This article was published in the journal, Libri [© Walter de Gruyter]. The final publication is available at






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