Focus groups for graduate students: a needs assessment


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Mindy Thuna, University of Toronto Mississauga

Have you ever run a focus group? Let me tell you, it is not easy to a) get enough people to come (although food helps.. a lot.. but that, of course, requires money) b) find dates and times when people who MIGHT be coerced into coming will actually show up and c) facilitate a conversation, i.e. no talking or expressing an opinion or raising an eyebrow. All that aside, between December 6, 2010 and January 6, 2011, I ran 5 focus groups for graduate students at the UTM campus of the University of Toronto. In each 2 hour session I facilitated a conversation between from 4 to 10 students in both professional and doctoral stream programs to assess their information needs and wants as part of a larger graduate student needs assessment on library services and spaces that I am currently completing. I heard ranting, compliments, tales of woe and disappointment and forced them to draw pictures. I encouraged them to eat more and to talk more about where and how they find information to fulfill their scholarly needs. This pecha kucha will focus on the preliminary analysis of the results of these focus groups.

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  • - Talk about context here – part of larger needs assessment, 1st did survey of grads followed by focus groups to drill down into more specific responses
  • - The players – each of their roles in this process
  • Male UTM – 39%; Female UTM – 61%Male Focus – 41%; Female Focus – 59%
  • UTM Professional - 62.68% UTMResearch - 37.32%Focus Group Professional – 31.25%Focus Group Research - 68.75%
  • most participants do research/finding online
  • ranged from organizational patterns to specific programs/software
  • One professional program has a faculty member who uses twitter and other social media to ensure students keep abreast of new developments
  • Questions Asked (by theme)
  • - students who lived downtown indicated a preference for the libraries at the St. George campus for proximity, quiet, and amenities-- all research stream students take some courses at St. George campus
  • Focus groups for graduate students: a needs assessment

    1. 1. Focus groups to assess library services and spaces<br />UTM Graduate Students, the library wants to talk to YOU!<br />
    2. 2. M. Thuna<br />Primary Investigator<br />E. Hajderi<br />Graduate<br />Student Assistant<br />S. Mahabir<br />Undergraduate <br />Student Assistant<br />
    3. 3. How do we get them?<br />Lots of emails…<br />Pretty pictures<br />Hallway confrontations<br />Free food<br />A prize<br />
    4. 4. Demographics - Gender<br />UTM Grad Population<br />FocusGroups<br />Female<br />Male<br />
    5. 5. Demographics – Type of Program<br />UTM Grad Population<br />Focus Groups<br />Professional<br />Stream<br />Research Stream<br />
    6. 6. Twelve Questions, Four Groupings<br />Finding, Sharing & Organizing Information<br /><ul><li>Finding
    7. 7. Sharing
    8. 8. Organizing
    9. 9. Current Awareness
    10. 10. Efficacy Assessment</li></ul>Library Services<br /><ul><li>Front line services
    11. 11. Role of the Library/Resources
    12. 12. Workshops
    13. 13. Communication</li></li></ul><li>Twelve Questions, Four Groupings<br />Research/Program Community<br />Library Spaces<br /><ul><li>Workflow and physical space
    14. 14. Frequently used spaces
    15. 15. Wish list for study and research spaces</li></li></ul><li>Finding<br />most participants do research/finding online <br />typically use:<br />databases (Scopus, Web of Science, Scholar’s Portal, Pubmed)<br />Google and Google Scholar<br />Wikipedia<br />library catalogue for both journals and textbooks<br />Librarians<br />online library chat <br />journal article reference lists<br />
    16. 16. Finding<br />“never felt the need to go to the library... personally”<br />
    17. 17. Organizing<br />“Organizing is a challenge because articles can be relevant to more than one grouping”<br />“…know where things are but usually can’t find it”<br />“…organize by deleting articles that are done being used”<br />“If could find the article once...can find it again”<br />
    18. 18. CurrentAwareness <br />“I’m not high tech..I keep current more through talking to people”<br />“find it kind of hard to keep current”<br />“papers tend to find you”<br />“as long as doing original stuff … don’t really need to care”<br />
    19. 19. Front line service<br />“I can’t find it...I just make peace with that”<br />“if it’s hard to find… then it must not be that important”<br />“if I couldn’t find it...then it must not be that important”<br />“librarians do an awesome job”<br />“didn’t know about the librarian’s help...don’t do a good job marketing self...needs to be obvious from the start”<br />
    20. 20. Role of the Library<br />“Physically go to the library to use the bathroom, Starbucks, pick up delivery, otherwise would not step foot in there”<br />“tried to go to the library once.’s like an animal house in there...”<br />“like to go to library but ...undergrads”<br />
    21. 21. Library Spaces<br />Describe the various stages in your research/course work and where you physically work in each stage.<br />
    22. 22. Professional stream<br /><ul><li>primarily course work or group work
    23. 23. use physical library as a space
    24. 24. two common complaints: </li></ul>noise<br />inability to find a space/reserve a group study room<br />
    25. 25. Research stream<br /><ul><li>use library from home/office/lab, depending on individual preference/work space allotment
    26. 26. teaching assistants mentioned marking in the library, although avoiding students can be difficult</li></li></ul><li>The Final Question…<br />Participants were given the opportunity to draw a space that they find conducive for studying and research, both individually and collaboratively. <br />
    27. 27. Three categories highlighted<br />types of spaces (aka types of activities they want space to accommodate)<br />amenities/facilities<br />other features/items<br />
    28. 28. A. Types of Spaces<br />group work area<br />more than one area within the space to accommodate different activities/needs, e.g. one for relaxing and one for studying, but want to be able to switch between environments rather than using the same space for everything<br />B. Amenities/Facilities<br />large tables (for computers and for laying papers out on for reading and/or marking)<br />windows/natural lighting<br />comfortable couches <br />key code or card access to keep undergrads out<br />storage/locker/shelves/filing cabinet<br />close proximity to bathroom and food<br />coat rack<br />C. Other Features/Items<br /><ul><li>quiet
    29. 29. safe place to leave stuff
    30. 30. clean
    31. 31. temperature control</li></li></ul><li>