Research on student research habits

The University of Washington’s Information School has been investigating how university & college students conduct research, and among the preliminary findings are:

  • Wikipedia was a common starting point for “presearch,” getting background on a topic and some search words to use in article databases. Many students were aware of concerns about relying on Wikipedia for research, but “most students depended on and used Wikipedia for information cited in papers, but just never included Wikipedia entries on their Works Cited page.”
  • Students often started research near the deadline. Eight out of 10 students were “self-described procrastinators.” Students at larger institutions started later than students at smaller institutions because they were more confident of finding plenty of usable material at the last minute. Students at smaller institutions were more likely to start weeks before their research was due, to allow time for obtaining materials from beyond the campus.
  • Students expressed several frustrations with conducting research, such as seeking relevant resources among too many irrelevant items, needing access to relevant materials not locally available (e.g., a full-text article not in the library’s databases, or a book not on the shelf), and difficulties with language–both in coming up with appropriate search words and in interpreting the language in resources found.

Interested in learning more? See the Project Information Literacy web site.

Thank you, Ronna, for alerting your colleagues to this research on one of our favorite subjects (students)!

About Barbara

I am a Reference & Instruction librarian, head of that department in Andersen Library, an associate professor, and a member of the General Education Review Committee and Faculty Senate. I've been working at UW-W since July 1, 1990.
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1 Response to Research on student research habits

  1. Infovoyeur says:

    Well at liest it isnt like in the Middel East were “90% of the people think that 90% of the truth you herd on the Internet is 90% true”…
    My gripe as a former teacher is how student’s right here in the Lab then composed the materiel they found. It was like “TIRI, PIRO, HIRI.” (1) “Type It Right In” (in front of computer, textbooks open, screen open, just assemble some thing who kairs about like Completeness, Proportion-Balance, Concepts not just info, Concrete examples of ideas, Structure-organization-arrangement, & etc.)….then (2) “Print It Right Off” and (3) “Hand It Right In.” I think it was not Composition, but de-Composing, or Com-piling it “High & Deep,” thus Composting althonot rich, but often totally antiseptic from any fecund ideas. BUT I digress so much, into the post-research phase, that I can onley apologize, and stroll onward, the flaneur…

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