June 19, 2007

WILU2007: Graduate Student Library Research Skills Workshop Series: A Needs Assessment

(Reposted from here.)

By Fred Antwi-Nsiah, Vivian Feng, Kristin Hoffmann, Meagan Stanley (University of Western Ontario)


A project at the University of Western Ontario's Taylor Library focusing on grad students, using focus groups to decide what workshops they should be running. They used focus groups with grad students and faculty as well as an online survey.

The reason for focusing on grad students grew out of the UWO strategic plan; previous efforts at helping grad students included orientations, some course-based instruction and some other instruction when requested by faculty members. The Taylor librarians themselves were quite interested in increasing support to grad students and decided to use the focus groups/surveys as a needs assessment to help them design the programming.

The purpose of the needs assessment was to discover if one set of workshops would meet the needs of students in all four faculties, also to discover what students need to know and what will encourage them to attend. The needs assessment process consisted of 1 faculty focus group, 3 for grad students and an online survey (8/33/274 participants). The areas explored included demographics of survey responders, what they already know about lib research, what are the challenges they face, which workshops would be most useful, how should workshops be delivered.

There was a good cross section of students that answered the survey from the 4 scitech faculties with a good mix of Canadian students and non-Canadian born students, with some variation by faculty. Medicine & Dentistry and Health Sciences had most Canadian and Science and Engineering the most non-Canadian.

What did they learn about library research? Most did not learn what they knew from a librarian but rather a faculty member or peer. They have learned some things about using online article databases, the opac, formatting citations and doing a literature review, the message is also that they are not learning what they need to learn because it's falling through the cracks, no one thinks it's their job to teach grad students about lib research.

What are some of the student's challenges? Keyword search, too much information, where to search, online full text access issues, comprehensive searches, reliable info, materials not in collection, older materials, current awareness, time constraints. The different issues do vary by Faculty. Engineers, for example, one area is finding other types of material, such as patents. For Health and Med & Dent it's where to search and for science it's finding things in the library.

According to the grads, what will be the most useful workshops: Search strategies (selecting databases, identifying important research), Current awareness, refworks, and a general library intro. How should the workshops be delivered? Most said online but also in person and must be very relevant to student needs.

What assessment can't tell you: how to plan and schedule the workshops, what students really mean by "online tutorial" and how to coordinate registration. Some of the workshops that were ultimately offered include: intro to library research, Basic searching skills (some discipline based), Advanced searching skills, Keeping current, Refworks, Pubmed & Scifinder. Over 100 students attended the sessions with summer sessions beginning soon. Assessment phase begins in fall.

Summary Document,
Workshops webpage.
Session descriptions

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