Information literacy challenges for Chinese PhD students in Australia: A biographical study

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Jinghe Han


This study explored the information literacy (IL) development of international higher degree research (HDR) students from China as they undertook their research studies in an Australian university.

International HDR students need advanced IL skills to complete their research degree. However, IL research and training in western countries has tended to regard international HDR students no differently from their undergraduate counterparts. That is, there has been a focus on basic information skills rather than considering the more complicated and advanced IL needs within a research context. The project presented in this paper aimed to explore this gap.

Three international PhD students from China participated in this research. A biographical approach was used to collect the data, and a total of 222 reflective accounts were collected from the participants over a period of fifteen months. In these reflections, they recorded significant life and study experiences at the University of Western Sydney. This approach allowed the participants freedom to express their thoughts and feelings without interruption and enabled them to speak frankly and freely without prejudice. The approach to data analysis underpinning this study was based on Bruce’s (1997) relational model of IL.

The findings indicate that these international HDR students experience significant difficulties in developing their IL skills during their research studies in their western university. The complex nature of research study, which demands high levels of IL, significantly contributes to these difficulties, as do the different language and culture of international students which pose additional challenges to their information use. This article concludes with recommendations for research supervisors and librarians to consider in the provision of IL education for international students.

Article Details

How to Cite
HAN, Jinghe. Information literacy challenges for Chinese PhD students in Australia: A biographical study. Journal of Information Literacy, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 1, p. 3-17, apr. 2012. ISSN 1750-5968. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 25 jan. 2022. doi:
information literacy; research postgraduates; international research students from China; model of information literacy; using English as an additional language in research; Australia
Research articles (peer-reviewed articles)