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How do students really do
research? Revelations from the
Research Confession Booth
Odile Harter, Harvard University
Lisa Junghahn, University of California, Irvine
Emily Singley, Harvard University
How do students really do research?
findings from the
Research Confession Booth
Odile Harter, Harvard University
Lisa Junghahn, UC Irvine
Emily Singley, Harvard University
Harvard Library Search & Discovery Initiative Education Subgroup, 2013-present
1. Background
1.1. Provide the scientific background, rationale for the study, and importance in
adding to existing knowledge.
The initial goal of the study is to obtain a better understanding of how patrons use library
resources and what they most value about the resources we do have. This information will
be used to inform the design and implementation of the Library’s new discovery platform.
As the Library keeps pace with a constantly changing research environment, the study will
continue to investigate how researchers interact with and feel about library products and
services.
Harvard Library has access to several measures of patron behavior, including user surveys,
focus groups, and usability studies, but none of these offer sufficiently granular or
contextualized information for us to understand the whole picture of what our users want.
This study will collect information that is granular, qualitative, and not tied to a particular
website or library vendor. It will also provide a recognizable site for library patrons to
quickly and easily give very specific feedback about their research experiences.
Study protocol
Ingredients:
 1-3 well-traveled campus
locations with ambient noise
 10-20 candy and granola bars
 1 poster
 20 info sheets
 1 laptop
 1 wireless mouse
 1 cardboard box
 1 table & chair
 1 Quicktime screen recording
 1 Qualtrics survey
 1 task
 USB drives
 1 IRB approval
Study protocol
TASK 1
“Please show us a feature you really like in a
resource you use to do research.”
Study protocol
TASK 2
“Please walk us through a situation in which you were trying to find
information to use in your coursework and encountered some kind of
obstacle or snag that interfered with your ability to find, obtain, or use
the information you were seeking.”
Study protocol
Status
Undergraduate 15
Graduate 3
Faculty 1
Experience (self-identified)
Novice 7
Intermediate 11
Expert 1
Study protocol
Participants:
Pros and cons:
 Flexible
 Nimble
 Qualitative
 Semi-controlled/slightly artificial
 Small dataset
Study protocol
What we’re learning:
 Global picture – which systems are
actually used
 Navigation behaviors
 Contextualized usage - how and why
systems are used
Findings
Category Resource Use
Harvard library
HOLLIS catalog 10
Harvard Library
website
1
Databases A-Z list 1
Fulfillment services
Scan & Deliver 1
Borrow Direct 1
Interlibrary Loan 1
Open web
Google Scholar 5
Google 5
Wikipedia 1
Databases
PubMed 4
Academic Search Premier 1
JSTOR 1
Findings
Navigation:
 Typing in memorized URL
 Googling site name
 Navigating via Harvard Library
homepage or intranet
Findings
Features identified as important:
 Confidence & comfort
 Filtering
 Getting relevant results:
o topical
o level of detail
o academic results
 Full-text fulfillment
 Citation management options
“This button right here is the best:”
Findings
Library as difficult, confusing, annoying:
Findings
“I sometimes feel like I don't know how to use the right ‘ands’
and ‘ors’ and quotation marks."
"I really don’t like "getting it" from interlibrary loan - I feel like
that's really annoying. So I actually usually just try to find it on
my own.”
“The resource I use most would probably be JSTOR, because
I’ve known that since high school (…) I’m not the best at
research.”
“See, this is the point where I usually give up and just go ask
the research librarian for help, you know, because I don’t
know how to do this stuff.”
Preference for open web:
 Quick fulfillment
 Familiar interface
 Trust in how it’s interpreting your query
 Greater tolerance for uncertainty
 Ability to match effort invested to information need
Findings
User interface problems:
 Invisible or incomprehensible button labels
 Complicated layouts
Findings
Example of user unable to find PubMed full-text link
Silo-to-silo confusion:
 What resource am I in?
Findings
 Other tasks we might try with this study
 Further analysis of the findings
 Companion studies
 Effects on our daily work
Future research
Thank you!
Questions?

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How students *really* do research - Findings from the Research Confession Booth

  • 1. How do students really do research? Revelations from the Research Confession Booth Odile Harter, Harvard University Lisa Junghahn, University of California, Irvine Emily Singley, Harvard University How do students really do research? findings from the Research Confession Booth Odile Harter, Harvard University Lisa Junghahn, UC Irvine Emily Singley, Harvard University
  • 2. Harvard Library Search & Discovery Initiative Education Subgroup, 2013-present
  • 3. 1. Background 1.1. Provide the scientific background, rationale for the study, and importance in adding to existing knowledge. The initial goal of the study is to obtain a better understanding of how patrons use library resources and what they most value about the resources we do have. This information will be used to inform the design and implementation of the Library’s new discovery platform. As the Library keeps pace with a constantly changing research environment, the study will continue to investigate how researchers interact with and feel about library products and services. Harvard Library has access to several measures of patron behavior, including user surveys, focus groups, and usability studies, but none of these offer sufficiently granular or contextualized information for us to understand the whole picture of what our users want. This study will collect information that is granular, qualitative, and not tied to a particular website or library vendor. It will also provide a recognizable site for library patrons to quickly and easily give very specific feedback about their research experiences. Study protocol
  • 4. Ingredients:  1-3 well-traveled campus locations with ambient noise  10-20 candy and granola bars  1 poster  20 info sheets  1 laptop  1 wireless mouse  1 cardboard box  1 table & chair  1 Quicktime screen recording  1 Qualtrics survey  1 task  USB drives  1 IRB approval Study protocol
  • 5. TASK 1 “Please show us a feature you really like in a resource you use to do research.” Study protocol
  • 6. TASK 2 “Please walk us through a situation in which you were trying to find information to use in your coursework and encountered some kind of obstacle or snag that interfered with your ability to find, obtain, or use the information you were seeking.” Study protocol
  • 7. Status Undergraduate 15 Graduate 3 Faculty 1 Experience (self-identified) Novice 7 Intermediate 11 Expert 1 Study protocol Participants:
  • 8. Pros and cons:  Flexible  Nimble  Qualitative  Semi-controlled/slightly artificial  Small dataset Study protocol
  • 9. What we’re learning:  Global picture – which systems are actually used  Navigation behaviors  Contextualized usage - how and why systems are used Findings
  • 10. Category Resource Use Harvard library HOLLIS catalog 10 Harvard Library website 1 Databases A-Z list 1 Fulfillment services Scan & Deliver 1 Borrow Direct 1 Interlibrary Loan 1 Open web Google Scholar 5 Google 5 Wikipedia 1 Databases PubMed 4 Academic Search Premier 1 JSTOR 1 Findings
  • 11. Navigation:  Typing in memorized URL  Googling site name  Navigating via Harvard Library homepage or intranet Findings
  • 12. Features identified as important:  Confidence & comfort  Filtering  Getting relevant results: o topical o level of detail o academic results  Full-text fulfillment  Citation management options “This button right here is the best:” Findings
  • 13. Library as difficult, confusing, annoying: Findings “I sometimes feel like I don't know how to use the right ‘ands’ and ‘ors’ and quotation marks." "I really don’t like "getting it" from interlibrary loan - I feel like that's really annoying. So I actually usually just try to find it on my own.” “The resource I use most would probably be JSTOR, because I’ve known that since high school (…) I’m not the best at research.” “See, this is the point where I usually give up and just go ask the research librarian for help, you know, because I don’t know how to do this stuff.”
  • 14. Preference for open web:  Quick fulfillment  Familiar interface  Trust in how it’s interpreting your query  Greater tolerance for uncertainty  Ability to match effort invested to information need Findings
  • 15. User interface problems:  Invisible or incomprehensible button labels  Complicated layouts Findings
  • 16. Example of user unable to find PubMed full-text link
  • 17. Silo-to-silo confusion:  What resource am I in? Findings
  • 18.  Other tasks we might try with this study  Further analysis of the findings  Companion studies  Effects on our daily work Future research

Editor's Notes

  1. 1 minute – introduce ourselves
  2. 2 minutes –where study came from: Search&Discovery committee, Primo implementation, etc.
  3. 2 minutes – Study protocol – filling in gaps, not tied to a particular website, open-ended and ongoing
  4. Protocol, cont. Implementation of protocol – based on the model of reality TV show confession cam. Outside library. Recording voice, but will not share. Wrote IRB for protocol, not tasks.
  5. Another possible task: how would you start your research
  6. 10 minutes per participant
  7. Nimble, only takes two hours of our time to run. Confounding variables: e.g., introducing ourselves as librarians.
  8. Contextualized usage: seeing use behaviors that we wouldn’t be able to track using just analytics. E.g. use of Google scholar as a reference source.
  9. Global picture of which systems were actually used – “use” defined as chose to go to resource, performed some action (searched, looked for documentation, etc). Databases: count when they navigated from url, when from library
  10. Comment on proxied vs non-proxied navigation
  11. Confidence – tolerance for using something poorly; scoping – easy-to-understand
  12. Lack of confidence in ability to use library tools (sense that they are missing something). Perception of the library as annoying, confusing, intimidating, slow Did not track with ability or familiarity.
  13. Willingness to explore