Project Information Literacy, a national research project based out of the University of Washington’s ISchool, is attempting to study how undergraduates conduct research by collecting data through discussion groups at community colleges, public colleges and universities, and private college and universities throughout the United States.
The project is entering its first year supported by a grant from Proquest that will enable it to continue conducting discussion groups at different universities. The plan for the fall is to visit six schools to pilot the instrument being used to collect data through discussion groups while the researchers plan to visit three campuses in the spring to administer and test a student survey instrument.
The three main research questions that the project is focused on answering are:
- How do early adults (in their own words) put their information literacy competencies into practice in learning environments in a digital age, regardless of how they may measure up to standards for being information literate?
- With the proliferation of online resources and new technologies, how do early adults recognize the information needs they may have and in turn, how do they locate, evaluate, select and use the information that is needed?
- How can teaching the critical and information literacy skills that are needed to enable lifelong learning be more effectively transferred to college students?
More broadly, the goal of the project is “to understand how early adults conceptualize and operationalize research in the digital age.”
The project began as a pilot at St. Mary’s College of California led by Alison Head that attempted to study the undergraduate research process and information literacy through “the lens of the students’ experience to find out how students conceptualized and operationalized the course-related research process.”
The findings of that study were published last year in the article “Beyond Google: How do students conduct academic research?,” which Matt discussed in an earlier RIOT. A complete 52-page report detailing the findings of the study can be found online as well.
Project Information Literacy identified the most interesting findings from that exploratory study as the following:
- The majority of students (87%) did not go to Google’s search engine first when conducting research as many previous studies have suggested.
- Students did use the campus library, library web sites, and librarians, and in fact, relied heavily upon these library sources.
- Overall, students struggled with figuring out what scholarly research actually meant and required them to do. The first step in the research process was often the most difficult one for students.
By broadening the scope of that initial study to a national pool from a diverse set of universities and by employing a variety of data collection methods, Project Information Literacy hopes to build upon these initial findings and produce results that can help faculty and librarians revisit the design of research assignments, the design of library resources, and the development of course curriculum.
Project Information Literacy is currently seeking funding for the second year of its study, with a proposal under review by a granting agency. They’re also looking for volunteers for the second year sample.
Cindy and I both responded to a posting in the LOEX newsletter that allowed you to sign up to receive more information about the research symposium they’re planning next year. Cindy had a nice exchange with Alison, which we can talk about during our meeting.