Evidence from Students’ Information Seeking Diaries Underscores the Importance of Including Librarians in Undergraduate Education

Maria Melssen

Abstract


Objective – To determine what information resources undergraduate students choose to complete assignments for their courses, why they choose those resources, the process of selecting those resources and the factors that contributed to selecting the resources, and their perceptions of those resources.

Design – Semi-structured information seeking diary.

Setting – Private university in Seoul, Korea.

Subjects – 233 undergraduate students from all majors and all years.

Methods – Students selected one assignment from their elective course and recorded the following in a diary: what the assignment was, the topic they needed to research to complete the assignment, resources used, the factors that contributed to choosing the resources, and perceptions of those resources.

Main Results – Data were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The factors that affected the students’ resource selection were analyzed qualitatively using an open coding method created by the researchers. The factors were not predetermined by the researchers, but were selected based on the factors identified by the students. Online resources (67.1%) were the most frequently selected resources by the students compared to human resources (11.5%), print materials (11.5%), and mass media (3%). Students used an average of 5.28 resources to complete one assignment. Factors that affected the students’ selection of resources were the type of information provided by the resource, the features of the resource, the search strategy used when searching in the resource, and the students’ interaction with other people when selecting and using the resource. More than one factor typically contributed to the students’ selection of the resource. The students’ perceptions of the resources they selected were analyzed quantitatively: perceptions were analyzed in six content areas using a five point scale. Correlations and similarities across the six content areas were also analyzed. Perceptions of resources were broken down into six categories and the resources were rated on a five point scale. Librarians (4.50) were the most useful resource and lecture notes (5.0) were the most credible. Family (3.29) was the least useful, and social question and answer services, such as Yahoo! Answers, (2.62) were the least credible. Family was the most accessible and familiar resource (4.90 and 4.95 respectively). Experts (2.25) were least accessible and librarians (1.50) were the least familiar. Students were most satisfied with Google Scholar (4.33) and were most likely to use an online database (4.52) again. They were least satisfied with social question and answer services (3.05) and least likely to use a report sharing site (2.93) again. The usefulness and credibility of the resource contributed most to the undergraduates’ satisfaction with the resource, while accessibility and usefulness were the major contributing factors to users intended continued use of a resource.

Conclusion – There are multiple reasons that support further information literacy education. Information literacy courses would encourage and teach students how to effectively use resources that they found credible and reliable, but considered inaccessible and unfamiliar. Information literacy education would also help educate students on how to best formulate their search strategies and how to select the best resource to use based on that strategy. Students also highlighted the importance of human interaction in resource selection and utilization. This is an opportunity for librarians and professors to play a more active role in assisting students in selecting and using the best resources to complete course assignments. Due to the limitations of this study, further research is needed to investigate the factors affecting the exclusion of resources, not only the inclusion. Future study designs should address the characteristics of the study participants themselves, such as the age and gender. The impact of the research topic and subject on resource selection, as well as what resources are selected for non-academic information needs, should also be investigated.

Keywords


academic librarianship; undergraduate students; resource selection; resource evaluation

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