Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Academic Research A Painful Process For Students

A new report, What Today's College Students Say about Conducting Research in the Digital Age, from an organization that is trying to learn more about what it is like to be a college student in the digital age may provide insight into our development of on-line research tools . Project Information Literacy is a national research study based in the University of Washington’s Information School. PIL seeks to understand how students conduct research for assignments and everyday needs. During the fall semester of 2008 PIL conducted 11 discussion groups on 7 college and university campuses and talked with 86 full-time students in the humanities and social sciences. They collected these first-hand accounts from students about how they move through the research process, and the solutions they apply as they proceed. One significant finding from the report:
"We have found that no matter where students are enrolled, no matter what information resources they may have at their disposal, and no matter how much time they have…Research seems to be far more difficult to conduct in the digital age than it did in previous times."

"Many participants considered formal library instruction (one-time, individual class visits) of little value to them, too. Throughout our sessions, participants reported that “library talks” (i.e., bibliographic instruction) made sense at the time, but that it was hard to recall and apply months later, when students were working on a research assignment."

"Other participants reported that they infrequently consulted librarians with the search terms they entered into scholarly research databases. Students told us “we are just as capable to enter basic search terms as librarians can,” “that I’ve been able to get by, so far, without librarians,” and “I don’t need a tour of the library, I just need to find one” One student said, “my first step used to be the library, but it was too much information, now I just go to the Web.”

"We found, generally, that when students did not receive (or request) the service they value delivered at the moment they need it from librarians, they quickly change course. Participants found a solution on their own, which is usually found online and derived from self-taught techniques that help them find the context they need."

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