Between myth and reality: an exploratory study of secondary school pupils’ information behavior

Jette Hyldegård


This paper presents and discusses the results of an exploratory case study of secondary school pupils’ information behaviour. According to Rowlands et al. (2008) many myths exist about the Google Generation (those born after 1993) that tend to overestimate the positive impact of ICTs on the young. The ubiquitous presence of technology has not resulted in improved skills in information retrieval, information seeking and evaluation. However, information skills are needed more than ever if people should be able to navigate competently in the information society. At the national level there is an intensive need for educational research and inquiry into the information and digital literacy skills of young people. This will help guide the way library services and digital information systems are designed in addition to facilitate how information literacy programs are developed and implemented in an educational practice. The research on young people’s information behaviour by Rowlands et al. was carried out in 2007. To determine whether the picture of the Google generation is consistent with reality a number of the myths investigated in 2007 were explored among 43 Danish secondary school pupils in 2009. Four research questions guided the study:

  1. What characterises the information behaviour of Danish secondary school pupils?
  2. Does the information behaviour differ across school year? If so, in which way?
  3. How is information seeking conceptualized and experienced?
  4. How is the study centre and library conceptualized and experienced?
The case study was carried out at a secondary school in Zealand called Frederiksborg Gymnasium (FG), and the results of the pilot study will provide the foundation of a larger study on Danish secondary school pupils. The participants were 20 pupils at their first year of studying (1g) and 23 pupils from their third and final year of studying (3g) – all representatives of the Google Generation. Two identical surveys were handed out in class to all the 43 participants. The survey addressed demographic issues as well as myths about the pupils’ information behavior. The survey was followed by two focus groups; one with 6 participants from 1g and another with 7 participants from 3g. To compare each participant’s profile with his or her utterances in the interview, a more detailed demographic survey was filled out. The focus groups were finally followed by an interview with the librarian at FG to get background information and information on pupils’ behavior as experienced by her. The interview data were recorded on tape and transcribed. It was found that the information behaviour of secondary school pupils to a large extent confirm the negative myths of the Google Generation. However, pupils at their third year generally tend to be more critical and to demonstrate more critical information skills. The implications of the study are finally discussed, which regards the information practice of young people, the perceptions of the physical and digital library among young people as well as the underlying methodology of the study.



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Rowlands, I. et al. (2008). The Google generation: the information behaviour of the researcher of the future. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, 60(4), 290-310. Sundin, O. & Francke, H. (2009). In search of credibility: Pupils’ information practices in learning environments. Information Research, 14(4). paper 418. [Available at]


Copyright (c) 2011 Jette Hyldegård

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ISSN: 1890-5900