Private research institution Residential campus, located in upstate New York in an urban area of about 900,000 people Enrollment Fall 2011 Undergraduates: 5396 Graduates/Medical Students: 3526 About 70 Professional staff; 45 Support staff Residential campus
Introduction The first Undergraduate Research Project began in 2004 and ended in 2007 with the publication of “Studying Students,” edited by Nancy Fried Foster & Susan Gibbons, with chapters written by 15 other staff members. In fact, About 30% of the library staff were actively involved in that project. Original research question for that project : “ What do students really do when they write their papers?” “How do undergrads write their research papers and what services, resources, and facilities would be most useful to them?” Time has passed, a lot of change has taken place and more questions have occurred to us. Time to refresh the project!
Undergraduate Research Refresher 2010 Began last year and is ongoing. In the refresher part of the project we will redo our original work – student interviews, mapping diaries, photo diaries But we had some new questions that we wanted to pursue, so we formed five subteams to investigate these questions In depth. 5 subteams working on 5 topics: Apps and Devices Design Workshops Finding Trusted Information Learning the Ropes Study Groups Helen was a member of the Finding Trusted Information Subteam. Katie was not.
Finding Trusted Information Today we’re going to talk about the process and the findings of the Finding Trusted Information group. Work is still ongoing, but…so far… Our original research question was: “ How do faculty members, students and librarians find information when they really care, are really interested, and have to get accurate information?” Our objective was to discern the similarities and differences among the research approaches of faculty members, students and librarians in order to: Assess whether the support given to students in the library was aligned with the processes used by serious researchers Identify adjustments that could be made to the way our librarians might provide research to students
This is what we asked the faculty… We want to know how you find out information when you have to find information you can trust. Is there an area or topic that you need to find out about or a question that you have to answer that is not related to your scholarly research? Was there recently? We want either to follow you as you work on getting the information or have you draw a picture of what you did when you got the information. The faculty members we interviewed were in the following disciplines: Anthropology, Education, Engineering, English and Mathematics. We videotaped the interviews.
We asked the students the same thing and we let them pick the topic. If people told us about their school work that was fine. “ We want to know how you find out information when you have to find information you can trust. Is there an area or topic that you need to find out about or a question that you have to answer? Was there recently? We want either to follow you as you work on getting the information or have you draw a picture of what you did when you got the information.” We interviewed sophomores, juniors and seniors across a range of science, social science and humanities majors. So our idea was that if the process used by students is similar to the process used by serious researchers, we’d like to highlight this and propose ways to support it. If not, we’d like to find out and propose ways to help students to use a process that is more in line with how research is really done.
Again, librarians were asked the same question: “We want to know how you find out information when you have to find information you can trust. Is there an area or topic that you need to find out about or a question that you have to answer that is not related to work? Was there recently? We want either to follow you as you work on getting the information or have you draw a picture of what you did when you got the information.” Would the librarians process be the same as that used by other serious researchers? Or is there a process unique to librarians? If librarians say that there is an “official way” to do research, do they actually use it when they look for something where it is important that they find an answer that they can trust? So we wanted to whether what librarians really do is the same as the “official” librarian process and follow up on the implications of the answer to that question. If the librarian process is like the researcher process, we want to highlight that and find ways to make sure this knowledge can help librarians working directly with students, in class or at the desk.
We conducted interviews of: 4 librarians 8 undergrads 10 faculty members Location: for faculty and librarians we conducted the interviews in their workspaces. For the undergrads, we made an appointment to meet them in a private room in the library where could use a lap top if they wanted to. We let them pick the topic. We video taped the sessions. The interviews lasted between a half hour and an hour in length.
All three groups (faculty, librarians and students) use a similar “whatever works” process to find information that is personally interesting to them. They draw on a variety of tools to find the best answer. Historically, the “whatever works” method resembles past practice , but there are now many more tools and resources, and they are constantly changing and increasing. There is a lot of trial and error. Everyone drew from a personal set of tools and resources that the individual builds up over time and pulls out on an as-needed basis. The process is heavily electronic, but includes print resources, other people and activities. Students, librarians and faculty members all use prior information to assess new information. They are more or less successful depending on how well they already know the area they are researching. Across the board, people who do not already know a lot about what they are researching are at risk of accepting bad information as good information. Those who have built up a strong basis of information and a bag of diverse information-finding tools show great skill at finding numerous sources of precise, reliable information. Every librarian that we interviewed followed basically the same pattern as the faculty and the students, but they all said things that indicated that they were departing from some “correct” way of searching. It could be said that everyone we interviewed was at different stages of developing a toolkit. Now Katie will talk more about our findings and next steps….
Three things in common… 1. Everyone referred to other trusted people for help – friends, experts, colleagues. EG one girl texted a senior student, right in front of us, after unsuccessfully searching the web for appropriate images for an event they were hosting. Another student told us he had written to his pastor for advice on book titles. 2. Everyone drew on their own prior knowledge to assess new information – the filing cabinet. Some had very little in their filing cabinet, some had a lot. “I knew that…” 3. Everyone searched and searched– Google, Amazon, library resources, etc. There are an increasing number of tools and resources and they are constantly changing. The OPAC is no longer the center of research the way we used to think it was Everyone, even if they know how to search well, can benefit from learning more about tools and resources It is hard to create or catch teaching opportunities
We asked faculty members to tell us about their non-academic interests and then asked them to look for information in one or more of these areas. They sought information for us on a range of topics, including house remodeling, coins, sports, restaurants, pet health, local culture, and so on. Several of the faculty members we interviewed were hard-pressed to identify non-academic interests, or their non-academic interests merged into their academic interests. In watching faculty members seek information, we saw them use a phone app once, make a decision to ask colleagues once, and use their computers all other times. When using their computers, People: By far the biggest class of items in this category comprised requests for information from colleagues and other experts. This included going to meetings and conferences, whether academic or not; finding out about other people’s research projects; and getting in touch with academic colleagues, fellow enthusiasts, or local experts through email, telephone calls and What Searching: faculty members used Google, often as a springboard to a known site (for example, when typing “keyword” and “wiki” to reach a Wikipedia entry). We also saw faculty members use search history to re-navigate to a previously identified site. Other sites we saw faculty members visiting included .gov sites, restaurant sites, and RocWiki, a site for local information about Rochester, NY. When faculty members told us about a previous search for information, as opposed to searching in our presence, we heard a great deal about the use of Google, Google Scholar, and Wikipedia. One person mentioned using Facebook for conversations about political issues of great interest and importance, and one talked about researching music on YouTube. Faculty members also told us about a great number of non-Google searches, including the use of the University of Rochester libraries in person and through the library website; the use of public and personal libraries; the purchase of books; connection to known organizations and the use of their newsletters and web pages as well as consultation with other members of organizations; and taking a class and getting information from an instructor. Draw on Prior Knowledge: Make this point at the end??
Student Information Seeking We asked students to think of some current information need related to a matter of personal importance, encouraging them to choose a topic on which they needed accurate information. They searched for information about pet health, current events, a play that was about to be performed, music, information about the environment, and so on. In all demonstrations but two, students relied exclusively on the Internet. Searching: When students told us about recent information searches, they mentioned using library resources, such as Voyager, as well as commercial and information websites ranging from the university website to satire sites to news sites as well as such sites as Wikipedia and Amazon. One even mentioned using Wikileaks. One student described seeking information by talking to people in a neighborhood adjacent to the campus, while others talked about visiting the campus health center or career center for specific information, or attending music performances to learn about new music. Another student showed us some books that he had recently pulled off a display shelf in the library and planned to use for a senior thesis. People: One exception entailed live SMS communication between our interviewee, a sophomore, and a senior whose opinion s/he sought because, “she’s smarter; she’s a senior so she actually knows what she’s doing.” Relying on information from someone deemed smart or well informed characterizes many information-seeking strategies that we saw, including checking for information on blogs, music sites, and personal networking sites. Students told us that they trusted information left by known posters either because they had had good experiences trusting these posters in the past or because they knew them personally and had established their credibility. Students frequently used Google, often as a way to find a known site quickly. While students assess the credibility and reliability of information they find through the Internet, they do not always demonstrate great sophistication in doing so. Some are quite rigorous, checking multiple sites or seeking information posted by their professor or a known expert. Others apply low-level tests to information, for example, that it appears on a site associated with a trusted news source. Whatever works: Students demonstrated a “whatever works” approach when they tried one strategy after another, or used web tools in a variety of ways. For example, one student used Google to search for song lyrics in order to identify the name of a song while another used a Google image search to identify a pet breed. Students shifted among different methods and media in their demonstrated and described searchers, employing social networking sites to find out about current events or music, checking books from the library and from their personal collections, and using RSS feeds, blogs and news sites to keep up. Whether communicating with others personally or consulting websites, students emphasized their connections to known individuals or people with expert status. They mentioned professors, librarians, siblings, friends, conference presenters, and medical professionals as trusted sources of information and recommendations. Prior Knowledge: Students demonstrated agility in using a variety of information seeking strategies. However they did not demonstrate sophistication in vetting the sources they found. They rely very heavily on personal recommendations from people whose opinions they trust, especially their friends, their professors, and such self-promoted “experts” as bloggers, online reviewers and music critics. They don’t have a deep knowledge, so they have to rely on the experts and authorities. (vs. the faculty members who already have a very deep knowledge) ** they rely on people they know and trust. So they wouldn’t come to a librarian they don’t really know, so if there is any way to get them to trust us (even if it’s outside of the library), then they’re more likely to come back to us!!
Librarian Interview We want to know how you find out information when you have to find information you can trust. Is there an area or topic that you need to find out about or a question that you have to answer that is not related to work? Was there recently? We want either to follow you as you work on getting the information or have you draw a picture of what you did when you got the information. Only interviewed four…. Our finding so far are only suggestive More librarian interviews would have to be conducted to speak confidently about the findings, however, what we have seen so far suggests that when librarians do research on things that are personally interesting to them, they go off the librarian script and use the “whatever works” approach, just like our faculty members. The 4 librarians said things like “this is “bad” searching” or “it’s not the way we are supposed to do research.” We had the sense that they all felt that there was a systematic or “proper” way to do it but that they were not using it. Librarians (at least the small group we interviewed) had in their mind an “ideal way to search”, which is systematic, linear. Start with the opac, identifying the correct subject headings, look for specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias, moving to books And journal articles. But no one does research that way. No one starts with the OPAC or even the library website. Not even librarians. ***What are the similarities with faculty and undergraduates???***** How Librarians Find Information for Themselves We asked librarians to find information while we recorded them, and to tell us about recent instances of finding information on topics that have deep personal meaning for them. We were particularly interested in the different strategies librarians used when they had a personal stake in the richness and accuracy of the information they sought. When librarians demonstrated information seeking, they sought information on a variety of topics, including treatment of sports injuries, antiques, hiking trails, medical problems, and music. They demonstrated the use of websites that ranged from the academic (ISI Web of Science and PLOS) to the popular but still credible (Mayo Clinic, ABE Books), to the recreational (YouTube, music sites) to the commercial (retail sites). One librarian showed us an article that s/he had received from a trusted individual, while others said they trusted certain sites because of the experts who provided information for them. Searching strategies were not at all formulaic but instead were extremely varied; librarians used whatever searching strategy seemed to work. Some started with keyword searches, others searched for particular authors or experts, started broadly and narrowed down results, used an asterisk as a wildcard, and so on. Similarly, when librarians told us about recently finding information on topics of particular interest to them they mentioned using Google searches, WorldCat, Voyager and database searches, and searches of known, non-academic sites. They also mentioned using books, whether from their personal libraries or borrowed from friends or the library; one also told us about visiting a museum collection to find out more about items s/he was collecting. In several cases we heard about librarians following up on leads from experts of one kind or another, whether collectors, presenters at conferences, docents, teachers, or other librarians. We did not see librarians sticking to library resources or following any consistent set of steps for seeking information. One librarian called his/her own searching “not very sophisticated” and another voiced a very similar sentiment. Regardless of the sophistication of the searching strategy, we saw that librarians were able to find satisfactory information using a wide range of searching strategies; they also demonstrated a continuous process of assessing and then accepting or rejecting the information they found, although in fairly informal and non-rigorous ways. We did not feel that we witnessed or heard accounts of librarians seeking or finding information that was of such importance to them that they absolutely, positively had to achieve robustness or accuracy. Think about/future research: No one does research in this prescription kind of way All three groups did research the same way Why are we showing students how to do research in a way that no one actually searches??
Possible Next Steps 1. Share details with staff and librarians – expose them to the data so that they internalize it Sponsor co-viewing and discussion of the “whatever works” research process that we identified in this sub-project and its implications for librarian practices View and discuss selected interviews with the aim of identifying effective ways to help students progress in their development.Encourage library staff to share and discuss new ways of doing research, especially ways that are learned from faculty members and students Consider whether faculty members and librarians could share their own research strategies and processes with students, perhaps in a way that is focused on mutual interests Explore other means of building the faculty-student-librarian relationship, such as finding more ways to get faculty members to bring students to the library and having tips and guides available for students doing independent searches 3. Identify and take advantage of untapped opportunities to help students become better researchers by creating a student-faculty-librarian link even in non-academic areas. Teachable moments. Librarians at the desk are often providing assistance at the last moment or at point of need. Are there ways we can connect with students earlier and more often? Can we identify those elusive “teachable moments”? Can we find teachable moments outside of the classroom and course work?
Faculty members and librarians know that college students come in with low-level research skills and that advanced graduate students have excellent skills but they are challenged to find effective ways to help students progress in their development. This research suggests that the library may have untapped opportunities to help students become better researchers by creating a student-faculty-librarian link in non-academic areas. This might provide students with opportunities to see how other people with similar interests pursue information related to those interests. This could help them develop knowledge of information tools and resources that would be helpful in their academic work, since the process is the same, whether the interest is academic or personal/recreational. There might also be an opportunity for librarians to participate in the non-standard communication (for example, lists or blogs that students and professors organize informally around course topics) that goes on among faculty members and students with regard to academic interests. Faculty and Librarians told us that freshman have a low level of research skills and advanced graduate students have excellent skills. So you have freshman with rudamentary skills and phd’s with fabulous skills – what happens in between? We think there may be untapped opportunities to help students become better researchers. One idea we’ve had is to create student/faculty/librarian links or support existing student/faculty/librarian links, But specifically build those links in non-academic areas ?People have passionate interests, in non academic areas We’re not suggesting replacing pursing links in academic areas, but instead enriching those links by adding links in non- academic areas ***We are seeing people using the same process in non- academic areas*** Once you learn the process of finding out stuff about whatever you’re really interested in, you can use the same process and you can build Your tool kit and use the whatever-works-approach-pull out the tool you think is probably going to be the tool that works For you in this other situation. The bigger your tool kit and the better the base of information – the more you are going to be able To find out and assess the quailtiy of new information that is coming in. Keep building your tool kit and informational base in those so called non-academic areas, which are other very closely related to Academic areas. So for example, if you’re interested in the health of your pet, that’s closely related to a lot of stuff you are doing if you are pre-med If you are really interested in politics, that’s closely related to history, poli sci, anthropology Not totally off the wall Recently, one of our staff members, who is of Japanese heritage, met regularly with a group of students from the Anime Interest Floor, in one of the dorms. The students put together two displays, an open display of circulating books and a closed display with items from their own collections. Our staff member now has a closer connection to those students. She is seen as a trusted individual. They look for her in the library and will hopefully feel generally more comfortable approaching library staff for help, not just at the last minute.
Finding trusted information final
Finding Trusted Information How Do Faculty, Students and Librarians Look For Information? Helen Anderson Head, Collection Development Katie Clark Associate Dean, Public Services