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Information Practices of Immigrants to Canada – A Review of the Literature

Posted on:
March 31, 2008

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The purpose of this study is to examine the information needs, sources, and barriers to accessing information experienced by those who immigrate to Canada. In particular, we examine how both information needs and strategies for finding information change during the settlement process. Using an interdisciplinary approach, we synthesize and critically review a wide range of studies in the areas of Information Studies, Communications, Sociology, Social Work, Immigration and Settlement studies. We examine academic, community- based, and “grey” literature.

This paper contains a review of relevant literature in the area of immigrant information needs; it highlights gaps found within this research; and finally, it makes information service provision recommendations for policy makers and information service providers.

This paper contains a review of relevant literature in the area of immigrant information needs; it highlights gaps found within this research; and finally, it makes information service provision recommendations for policy makers and information service providers.

“Information practices” is a well known concept within Information Studies that suggests that individuals locate and use information in complex ways to address a variety of “information needs”. We frame our literature review of information practices by describing immigrants’ information needs in terms of immigrants’ stages of settlement (including pre-migration, immediate, intermediate, and long- term). There is tremendous value in structuring information practices around these stages because they enable settlement and information providers to more precisely design and target services to new and longer-established immigrants.

Our findings point to the heterogeneous nature of the literature on immigrants’ information practices. We make sense of the literature by organizing it according to several themes: information needs; information sources used by immigrants; and, barriers to finding information.

A number of gaps were identified in the literature. In general we find that more research is needed in a number of areas, including research on the relationship between information practices and settlement stages; research that highlights the relationship between information practices and immigrant demographics such as source country, age, gender, and income etc.; research on immigrants’ use of ICTs (including cross-cultural usability); research on transnational information practices; research that distinguishes between task based vs. more expressive forms of information seeking; research that compares best practices in information provision across organizations; and research that incorporates more non-English language materials.

We conclude with a number of recommendations, chief among them the fact that the social exclusion of immigrants ought to be considered an information problem, caused in part by the significant barriers immigrants face as they navigate the Canadian information environment. In order to understand the information practices of immigrants and cater to their needs, a holistic approach is advocated that encompasses a closer examination of the relationship between social inclusion, the role of immigrant social networks (social capital), and information practices.

Summary

The purpose of this study is to examine the information needs, sources, and barriers to accessing information experienced by those who immigrate to Canada. In particular, we examine how both information needs and strategies for finding information change during the settlement process.
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