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What Do Students Actually Want: A User-Centred Approach to Subject guides


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This paper reports on the results of a qualitative research project that investigates how students use subject guides, and what students like and dislike about subject guides. Using in-depth interviews with eleven university students it was found that students want subject guides that are clean and simple, and although students do not use subject guides often, they might if subject guides were more specifically customized to meet their needs. When designing subject guides for students, one size does not fit all, and librarians should consult with students and faculty to assess their needs and wants in order to create guides that are more useful, and more used.

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What Do Students Actually Want: A User-Centred Approach to Subject guides

  1. 1. What do students actually want?<br />  A User-centered Approach to Subject Guides<br />Dana Ouellette, MA, MLIS (candidate) <br />Information Services Librarian<br />Concordia University College of Alberta<br />September 2, 2011<br />
  2. 2. What the literature says<br />Very little research on subject guides<br />practical papers and case studies<br />Guidelines for design: Readability and usability (Cox, 1996; Dahl, 2001)<br />Do students use subject guides? <br />53% of Duke students never have (Reeb & Gibbons, 2004)<br />
  3. 3. What the literature says<br />Only 4 user-centered studies to date (Magi, 2003; Courtious, Higgins and Kupar, 2005; Staley, 2007; Hintz et al., 2010)<br />All quantitative<br />All notice the need for further research using qualitative methods<br />Need for user centered research<br />No research on user’s needs and preferences (Vileno, 2007)<br />
  4. 4. Method<br />Qualitative interviews<br />45-60 minutes<br />Semi-structured<br />Guide:<br />How students normally search for information?<br />How do students use subject guides?<br />What they like and/or dislike?<br />Limitations<br />
  5. 5. Participants<br />11 participants<br />9 female (82%) 2 males (18%)<br />5 graduate students 6 undergraduate students<br />Various disciplines<br />
  6. 6. Research questions<br />How do university students use subject guides?<br />How do subject guides affect the information-seeking behaviours of university students?<br />What elements of subject guides do students like, if any?<br />What elements of subject guides do students dislike, if any?<br />
  7. 7. Findings – How do students use subject guides?<br />They don’t!!!<br />Don’t know subject guides exist<br />Prefer Google/open web<br />Do not feel they need to<br />Students have their own method and stick to it. <br />
  8. 8. How do students use subject guides?<br />Only use subject guides when stuck <br />Last resort: “maybe if it was 11 p.m. on the night before and I didn’t have anyone to ask, then this would be valuable.”<br />Research in a new discipline<br />Only use databases tab<br />“that’s why I go to the subject guide…just to find articles” <br />
  9. 9. How do subject guides affect information seeking behaviour<br />They don’t<br />False assumption<br />Students find something that works and sticks with it<br />
  10. 10. Student perceptions: Key findings<br />Largest priority is clean easy to use guides (Hintz et al.)<br />Clutter<br />Unclear/confusing language<br />General look and feel of the guide<br />Specificity<br />Kimberley Hintz, Paula Farrar, ShirinEshghi, Barbara Sobol, Jo-Anne Naslund, Teresa Lee, Tara Stephens, and Aleha McCauley. “Letting Students Take the Lead: A User-Centered Approach to Evaluating Subject Guides,” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 5.4 (2010):39-52.<br />
  11. 11. Clutter<br />Too many Tabs<br />Too many links/too much text<br />Student’s do not scroll<br />“I wouldn’t scroll down unless I really had too” (Jack) <br />Condense <br />
  12. 12. Unclear/Confusing language<br />Databases vs. Articles vs. Journals<br />Avoid jargon<br />Clearly labeled tabs<br />“It’s kind of like, I’m sending you out to buy groceries in Japan. You have no idea how to read Japanese labels and you kind of have an idea that they have food there and then the things that you pick… are things that you think I’d never eat this. So like. Where do you start and how do you know that says beans and not octopus eyeballs.”<br />
  13. 13. Look and feel<br />Mostly MacEwan Students<br />Students do not like the look of tabs<br />“The tabs look outdated and I get the idea that the information is outdated… I haven’t seen tabs on websites in years, it doesn’t instill trust that this is current.” <br />Global navigation vs. local navigation (tabs)<br />
  14. 14. Specificity<br />Want more specific guides<br />Jessie “why don’t I just look at the list of all the databases, if I’m going to look at this. It’s got like 85 databases on it.”<br />Divide guides by sub-discipline<br />Course guides even better<br />
  15. 15. Final thought: One size doesn’t fit all<br />“principles of searching is silly” (jesse)<br />“some info on search skill would be useful to people.” (Trish)<br />Everyone has different needs<br />Each discipline is different<br />Guides must be tailored to audience<br />
  16. 16. Thank you!!<br />Dana Ouellette<br /><br />