June 18, 2007

WILU2007: Google and Beyond: What Sources are Students Really Using?

(Reposted from here.)

By Don MacMillan (University of Calgary)


This was an interesting presentation about an IL evaluation project at the University of Calgary. They wanted to see what bibliographic search engines (free or fee) that students were actually using by their 3rd or 4th year. The project had some interesting and even surprising results.

The situation is one where there is long-standing integration of IL skills training in the biological sciences curriculum, including ongoing assessment. The goals of the the project was to promote student reflection on research skills and the changes in habits over time but mostly to see if IL instructional content was aligned with student needs. Hopefully the info could be use to market further IL to faculty. The subjects were 25 3rd & 4th year bio students, most with at least one IL session in the past. The survey tool used was the FAST tool: Free Assessment Summary Tool (http://www.getfast.ca). The tool anonymously summarized a 16 question survey of student impressions at the end of an IL session.

Top resources used by students, in order with percentages: pubmed (84%), bioabs (80%), library catalogue (76%), google/scholar (72%), web of science (20%) and patent search (8%). Some resources tended to have different uses with students: bioabs for exploring a topic, google for choosing a topic, pubmed for exploring a topic and finding specific info.

Some impressions from students:

  • On which resource to use first: Pubmed popular but Bioabs and Google Scholar coming up
  • What source is the most useful: Pubmed is most mentioned
  • How has research changed during studies: library sessions mentioned, as well as using a greater variety of search tools
  • What caused the change: instruction & tutorials as well as profs & TAs
  • What do you wish you'd known earlier: some details on how to use Pubmed
  • How did you learn about the various resources: mostly mentioned library sessions
  • Do you plan to pursue an advanced degree: 14 yes, 10 no

Unanticipated results: lots of positive responses regarding IL, high use of Pubmed, not much Google Scholar use, students recognize the value of research skills in finding a job.

Conclusions: students use a variety of strategies, reinforcement of skills throughout program works, students use different tools for different purposes, survey benefited students and librarian.

Future directions: incorporate Pubmed earlier, split Google & Google Scholar next survey, add Scopus next time, ask follow up question later in term.

Downloads: ppt, survey questions, results, related readings, IL web page.

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