Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Library & Information Science


Dr. Isola Ajiferuke


The research reported in this dissertation explored linguistic determinants in online information searching, and examined to what extent bi/multilingual academic users utilize Multilingual Information Access (MLIA) tools and what impact these have on their information searching behavior.

The aim of the study was three-pronged: to provide tangible data that can support recommendations for the effective user-centered design of Multilingual Information Retrieval (MLIR) systems; to provide a user-centered evaluation of existing MLIA tools, and to offer the basis of a framework for Library & Information Science (LIS) professionals in teaching information literacy and library skills for bi/multilingual academic users.

In the first phase of the study, 250 bi/multilingual students participated in a web survey that investigated their language choices while searching for information on the internet and electronic databases. 31 of these participants took part in the second phase which involved a controlled lab-based user experiment and post experiment questionnaire that investigated their use of MLIA tools on Google and WorldCat and their opinions of these tools. In the third phase, 19 students participated in focus groups discussions and 6 librarians were interviewed to find out their perspectives on multilingual information literacy.

Results showed that though machine translation has alleviated some of the linguistic related challenges in online information searching, language barriers do still exist for some users especially at the query formulation stage. Captures from the experiment revealed great diversity in the way MLIA tools were utilized while the focus group discussions and interviews revealed a general lack of awareness by both librarians and students of the tools that could help enhance and promote multilingual information literacy.

The study highlights the roles of both IR system designers as well as LIS professionals in enhancing and promoting multilingual information access and literacy: User- centered design, user-modeling were found to be key aspects in the development of more effective multilingual information retrieval (MLIR) systems. The study also highlights the distinction between being multilingually information literate and being multilingual information literate. Suitable models for instruction for bi/multilingual academic users point towards Specialized Information Literacy Instruction (SILI) and Personalized Information Literacy Instruction (PILI).