Impact of knowledge and information sharing among students in Nigeria



Background to the Study

Information sharing is the exchange of information among persons who have common interest. It involves passing information from a source where it originates or where it is stored to a recipient where it is needed. Information sharing has two key components: transfer and exchange (Bao and Bouthillier, 2007).  Information transfer is a voluntary act of making information available to others, that is; the sharer could pass information to another, perceived to be in need of the information (Akbulut, 2003). In this case, the sharer is under no obligation to share but is willing to give information to the other.

In information exchange, information is shared based on self interest and reciprocity (Rafaeli and Raban, 2005). In this case, a sender only performs the action when the receiver is willing to reciprocate, that is, not only being willing to receive, but also interested in satisfying the need of the sender by passing on the information in his possession. Hence, information is shared when the activity is perceived to satisfy individual or common interests of the participants (Bao and Bouthillier, 2007).


Talja (2002) defines information sharing as “an umbrella concept that covers a wide range of collaborative behaviors from sharing accidentally encountered information to collaborative query formulation and retrieval”. Hence, information sharing cannot occur with an individual only, without involving another entity playing the receiving or exchange function. Collaboration implies that at least two entities agree and combine their resources to carry out information seeking, transfer or exchange. This sharing takes place when the benefit to be gained outweighs the cost of sharing (Liu, 2010) because individuals evaluate alternative courses of action so that they get best value at lowest cost from any transaction. Therefore, in information sharing, the benefit to be gained is assessed in relation to the cost incurred in the acquisition and exchange of the information.


Information behavior represents the set of behaviors/expressions exhibited in response to information need, seeking, giving and use in different contexts, including the workplace and everyday living (George et al 2006). It is the totality of the behavioral expressions made towards information. It is defined as “those activities a person may engage in when identifying their own needs for information, searching for such information in any way, and using or transferring that information” (George et al 2006).  Sonnenwald (2006) posits that information sharing is an important aspect of information behavior of people.

Information sharing behavior is the attitude expressed in transferring or exchanging information between individuals or systems. Studies have shown that people engage in information sharing for the rewards to be accrued; others do so voluntarily for the purpose of helping others while some compulsorily share information as part of their job (Buzard, 2000; Sernland et al, 2003).


The academic environment is a place where information and knowledge is passed and exchanged as the term citadel of learning is used to describe academic institutions. Faculty members transfer information as part of their job. But for the students of these institutions, what is in information sharing for them?  As affirmed by Sonnenwald (2006), the goal of information sharing is to “provide information to others” as well as improve their knowledge state in so doing. People also engage in information sharing in order to reduce cost of acquiring information (Dechaume-Moncharmont et al, 2005), or for future information need to be met by others (Van den Heuvel, 2010, Haeussler, 2011). Yet, some do so to establish and maintain relationships with people (Aliakbar Yusoff, and Mahmood, 2012, Haeussler, 2011).  Thus, students share information in order to improve knowledge as well as reduce the cost of information seeking.


Sernland et al (2003) discovered that one reason individuals join groups is that it provides the opportunity to use information from others, thus an individual becomes a member of a group for the perceived benefit to be derived which is the opportunity of access to vital information from others. Also, Rafaeli and Raban (2005) discovered self-interest to be the main driver for sharing expertise and that “beliefs and attitudes influenced intentions to share information”.

Reciprocity is therefore an indicator for sharing information as it influences a persons’ intention to share; hence people share information because the recipient is willing to return the favor (Van den Heuvel, 2010, Haeussler, 2011, Wang and Chan, 2011).


Also improvement in self image propels people to share information as respect and recognition are accorded people who share what they know and have with others. In academics, image is assessed through performance and learning ability, thus information sharing helps in improving performance as vital information can be acquired from a colleague in other to improve his/her ability to successfully complete a task. Therefore postgraduate students in their academic pursuit can improve performance by exchange of relevant information and documents.

According to Subhan and Ghani, (2008), information-seeking strategies include searching, tracking, selecting, comparing, acquiring, consulting, and exploring and during information seeking and acquiring, the user’s personal information infrastructures are also developed as knowledge or information is gained.


Existing norms (pro-sharing norms) are identified by Talja, (2002) and Wang and Chan, (2011) to be motivators of information sharing. In that, if the environment/system encourages sharing, people would be prone to sharing information when the need arises.  While loss of knowledge power in which individuals decide not to share information for the feeling that they are losing the knowledge that makes them unique is seen as a negative influence on information sharing intentions of people, Wangpipatwong (2009) states that when individuals are confident in their ability to provide useful information, they will be motivated to do so, hence, self efficacy positively drives information sharing. Therefore information sharing begins with a persons’ sharing self efficacy.


Competition is another factor that influences information sharing intention of people. In a highly competitive environment, people may not be willing to share as they hold such information to be used to their advantage over others. While this holds, altruism/enjoyment in helping others drives people to freely share information in order to improve the knowledge state of another individual.

Irrespective of the intentions for sharing information, as indicated earlier, the action cannot be executed without interaction with another individual. Such interactions can be face-to-face, and can also be facilitated through the use of technology such as the use of email, instant messaging (chatting), text messaging, and much more.


Postgraduate students are a group of students who need, search for and acquire large amount of information to carryout scholarly activities. Postgraduate students are expected to understand deeply, concepts in their fields of study and areas of specialization and as such require and use large volume of resources for academic activities than undergraduates (Dingley, 2010).


Since the acquisition of information resources require more resources (Rafaeli and Raban, 2005) they ought to take advantage of information acquired by others (Dechaume-Moncharmont et al, 2005). Hence, information sharing is recognized as an important element or tool through which information is received in order to reduce cost and as such, Postgraduate students, should be proactive and initiators in information sharing.

Though this is the ideal, studies on information sharing do not really explore the concept with concentration on students generally and specifically postgraduate students.

Problem Statement

Information sharing has been identified as an activity through which people acquire and disseminate information; it is also recognized as an important element for improving outcomes in many contexts. There have been studies with interest in this area and the focus on academic environments (Talja 2002, Haeussler, 2011, Haeussler et al, 2011) but few of these studies are concentrated on students. Also, studies in information science on students are centered on their needs and information seeking behavior (George et al, 2006, Igun & Adogbeji, 2007) but little attention is given to the aspect of their information behavior that deals with information sharing (Wangpipatwong 2009). Even much less empirical research exists on the deeper individual issues that shape students’ beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behaviours in information sharing in higher institutions in Nigeria.

Postgraduate students need and use a pool of information and information resources for academic work and research. The acquisition of the relevant information is cost consuming thus, information received and transferred would help. It has also been observed that vital/relevant information received from other students can speed up the research process as well as enhance learning and improve performance of students. In the transfer and exchange of information among students certain factors influence the behavior exhibited; but these are not known. While the factors that can influence information sharing among postgraduate students in the Unviersity can be speculated, there is no empirical evidence of information sharing among postgraduate students as well as factors that influence this activity.


Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to ascertain empirical basis impact of knowledge and information sharing among students in Nigeria.  This would be achieved through the following specific objectives, to:

  1. Examine the information sharing behavior of postgraduate students in the Unviersity
  2. Find out the factors that influence information sharing behavior of postgraduate students
  3. Identify factors that influence the intention to share information of postgraduate students
  4. Ascertain the Pro-sharing norm and its influence on the information sharing behavior of postgraduate students in the Unviersity.
  5. Examine the behavioral intentions of postgraduate students in the Unviersity to share information
  6. Ascertain the influence of intention to share on information sharing behavior of postgraduate students

Research Questions

  1. What is the information sharing behavior of postgraduate students in Unviersity?
  2. What behavioral intentions to share information are exhibited by postgraduate students of the Unviersity?
  3. What is the information sharing norm existing among postgraduate students in the Unviersity?
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