Previous MSc Theses

2019 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014
2013 | 2012

"Exploring Information Behaviour in the Small World Context." C. Scott. S. Buchanan. Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde. 2016. Download PDF (BibTeX) ILS

The aim of this study is to provide us with a better understanding of the information behaviours of those living in the small world context. One group which was felt to offer the ideal small-world population for this research was prisoners and, with earlier research suggesting that the small world of the prison has a negative impact on the information behaviour of prisoners (Chatman 1999), another aim of this study was to determine the extent to which prisoners are living in information poverty in modern times.

This study attempts to identify the information needs, factors influencing engagement with information sources and any barriers to information seeking in the prison environment. In response to the minimal indicative literature on this topic, this study was intended to be exploratory in approach. Therefore, in order to gather rich qualitative data, interviews were conducted with twelve prisoners who attend education classes in the Learning Centre at HMP Shotts, followed by a series of interviews with education staff to triangulate data and incorporate another perspective.

It was discovered that prisoners experience a complex range of interwoven emotional and coping needs related to the prison environment and respond to these through various self-protective measures, such as secrecy, deception and risk-taking; previously identified as signs of information poverty (Chatman 1996). Prisoners actively sought information with a clear preference for interpersonal sources, such as teachers, family and other prisoners, often selected for their trustworthiness or pragmatic reasons. A variety of barriers to information seeking were identified, including expected practical access barriers, along with more significant cognitive and affective barriers such as distrust, low self-esteem and fear of stigma or prejudice.

In conclusion, although most prisoners felt confident of their information seeking abilities, they exhibited clear signs of living in information-impoverished circumstances. The small world of the prison was characterised by an atmosphere of distrust that, when coupled with extensive monitoring and feelings of low self-esteem, results in a sense of isolation and helplessness among prisoners who are consequentially unable to address their information needs.