An investigation into the effect of the world wide web on the citation behaviour of Master of Information Studies students at the University of Natal during the period 1996-2002.
Thompson, Elizabeth Conceicao Garcia.
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Described as accommodating both traditional and new information spaces (Fourie 2002: 53), the Web has significantly changed the milieu of research and study. The study determined how this changing research and study environment has affected the research behaviour of students in African higher education environments, specifically at the research entry level of master's degree programmes. The study examined both explicit examples of the affect of the Web on students' citation behaviour and tacit influences that may have determined the extent of this affect. Explicit examples of the affect of the Web were drawn from analysing changes in the citation patterns of Master of Information Studies (MIS) theses during a period of access to the Web, and specifically in the years 1996, 1999 and 2002. Tacit influences on students' citation behaviour were inferred from an investigation of the level and nature of MIS supervisors' use and support of the Web for research and of a background study of the facilities, resources and services supporting student access to the Web at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. Findings of this study concluded that the use of the Web medium has grown and in 2002 accounted for 17.5% of all citations included in MIS bibliographies. However use of this medium is disparate with a few bibliographies accounting for much of this growth. Findings indicated that the Web medium was mostly utilised for the delivery of sources that do not meet the traditional description of a scholarly source. The study also found that the Web was used as an alternative medium for the delivery of informal and grey literature sources without necessarily increasing the level of use of these sources. The study revealed greater support for this medium from the masters programme's supervisors than was evidenced from a citation analysis of the bibliographies of theses. Disparities in the support of this medium for research, within the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg's supporting infrastructure was also observed. Recommendations drawn from these conclusions include the need for greater intervention from teaching faculty, librarians and the institution in the provision of clear guidelines of expectations, relevant instruction and sufficient physical access at points of expertise, to effectively support the use of Web resources.