Send Help: The Latest on Student Research Behavior and What We Can Do About it


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  • Tonya’s gonna drop some knowledge on digital reading, how student practice differs from what you might expect. As a librarian and an advocate for what I call “information literacy” how students read digital text is a question I’ve pondered a lot, particularly when that content is associated with a database, either as contents or as the interface itself. As research practice has migrated online, how we, as educators have (or haven’t) adapted to these changes and how we might.
  • Generalizations come easy about the “digital generation,” particularly when it comes to their use of technology. We want to assume that digital tools are intuitive to our students because they’ve grown up with them. Right? Whether they’re googling or texting, our assumption is that they have a facility with the technology that is innate. But research, at least focused on how college students do their academic research, complicates this notion.
  • According to a recent ethnographic study of student research behavior at a host of IL colleges and universities, many students appear to know how to use research tools, at least in some narrow sense that generates results. This is confirmed by my own experience looking over the shoulders of many, many students over the years. They make conceptual mistakes, not technical ones.
  • These are all actual things I’ve seen students search, on google and elsewhere.
  • In a nutshell, teaching students to use research tools as divorced from the core concepts of information systems and scholarly practice is a bit like teaching someone how to drive a car in a cornfield. It’s great for learning the mechanics of your steering wheel, your turn signal, or the pedals.
  • But it’s only one component in learning how to drive on actual roads. How prepared are you for highway driving after lifelong cornfield racing? Like research, is essentially a question of nuanced and even variable conventions that allow us to anticipate the behavior of others—whether those others are scholars whose work we must on some level imagine before we can effectively search for it, or drivers on the roads of pretty much anywhere other than Rhode Island.
  • So how do we teach students the culture and conventions of research, the parts that go beyond simple tools? Well, for one, you’ve got us, the library liaisons. Particularly in your FYSes, your methods courses, and your capstones, making sure your students not only know the name, role and, possibly face of your liaison is crucial because, as another finding of the ERIAL project indicates, few students really understand the academic role of librarians or what we can do for them. A large number of the minority of students who had worked with librarians at all did so on a referral from their professor. Put our names in your syllabi—have us in for a session, and consult with us on the best ways to time and frame that discussion so that it can most effectively get students “road ready.” OFte
  • 25% of handouts address the evaluation of sources, 49% of students report needing help with this task.Large majorities of students have trouble getting started with research assignments and defining and narrowing their topics. Large majorities want discussion of process, and feedback on their drafts, and iterative deadlines.
  • Send Help: The Latest on Student Research Behavior and What We Can Do About it

    1. 1. The Latest on Student Research Behavior And What We Can Do About It Pete Coco, April 24 2012
    2. 2. Mechanics and trainingUnderstanding (and using) citationsInformation systems/organizationAny Word/Anywhere OnlyJudgment and evaluation