Surfing for knowledge : how undergraduate students use the internet for research and study purposes.
The developments in technology and concomitant access to the Internet have reshaped the way people research in their personal and academic lives. The ever-expanding amount of information on the Internet is creating an environment where users are able to find what they seek for or add to the body of knowledge or both. Researching, especially for academic purposes, has been greatly impacted by the Internet’s rapid growth and expansion. This project stemmed from a desire to understand how student’s research methods have evolved when taking into account their busy schedules and needs. The availability and accessibility of the Internet has increased its use considerably as a straightforward medium from which users obtain desired information. This thesis was to ascertain in what manner senior undergraduate students at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Pietermaritzburg campus use the Internet for academic research purposes which is largely determined by the individual’s personal preference and access to the Internet. Through the relevant literature review there arose pertinent questions that required answers. Students were interviewed to determine when, why and how they began using the Internet, and how this usage contributes to their academic work; whether it aids or inhibits student’s research. Through collection and analysis of data, evidence emerged that students followed contemporary research methods, making extensive use of the Internet, while a few use both forms of resources, unless compelled by lecturers when following assignment requirements. As a secondary phase, from the results received from the students, lecturers were interviewed. Differing levels of restrictions on students were evident; they themselves use the Internet for academic research purposes. Lecturers were convinced they had the understanding and experience to discern what was relevant and factual. Referring to the Internet for research is becoming more popular. This should continue to increase as the student’s lives become more complex. A suggestion offered by this research project is to academic staff. Equip students from their early University years on standards they should follow in order to research correctly, as opposed to limiting their use of the Internet leading in part to students committing plagiarism being unaware of the wealth of reputable resources available for their use and benefit on the Internet.