Saturday, June 23, 2007

ALA 2007 - Library Research Round Table Research Forum

This session included three separate presentations by library school faculty (for the most part).

The first presentation was by a group of researchers from ProQuest (Joanna Marco, John Law, Serena Rosenham). I've seen John Law present these results before on a webinar earlier this spring so most of it was not new to me. But they have some really interesting results:

Ethnographic field study of how students seek information. Their research has gone through several phases since September 2006. Most participants so far have been undergraduates but they’re going to target graduate students in the next phase.

Students were actively engaged in a class research assignment and were studied onsite and remotely (Userview, which is a usability testing software for use on the Internet). The remote observation worked better because it allowed them great geographic coverage and because they obtained recordings of each session and finally because it allowed the student to relax and act more naturally without an observer in the room with them.

They used Facebook to recruit participants. A flyer was placed on Facebook and a survey was used to give them further information about the study and to filter for the characteristics they needed. They included grads, undergrads, in a variety of disciplines, and with a variety of skill levels.

How do students decide which resources to use for their research?
- Students ARE using library resources when we teach them to do so in the context of the course and at the point of their need; story of the fourth year student who used library resources but had only been doing so since a librarian had visted their classroom to show them how to do so.
- Endorsement of instructor; story about the 3rd year Biology student who used JSTOR for her biology research.
- Brand awareness has an impact on what students use to start their research; story about the student who hesitated a long time over selecting a database and spoke about recognizing ProQuest.
- Google

How do students use library research?
- 95% of parts engaged library resources for their research
- They often work with multiple resources at the same time; average number of tabs open at a time was between 5 and 12.
- Abstracts are essential in identifying relevant articles (even when the full text is available)
- They have no serious difficulties using databases once they find them

Chief inhibitors to success in using library resources:
- lack of awareness of resources; Law interprets from this a need for libraries to increase marketing efforts
- difficulty navigating library website to locate resources
- students search the library catalog for articles because the search box is front and center on the library web page
- authentication requirements and difficulties create a barrier to entrance to library resources and an obstacle; also lack of awareness of the purpose or even existence of authentication

How students REALLY use Google:
- some 90% of researchers use internet search engines for their research according to Outsell and OCLC data; but in the case of this study it was 32%. What’s important is HOW they are using it
o for quick answers and definitions
o uses it as sufficient when quality isn’t a concern
o because they’re insufficiently aware of library resources
o and because they’ve had a bad experience using library resources (like ab authentication barrier)
- when they used google they were less effective than they were when they used library resources (in terms of obtaining quality content)
- as a handy look-up tool
- to get specific answers

Their end user surveys support these findings. They had about 10,000 respondents who were invited from ProQuest websites and from Facebook to take the survey.
- they recognize that the library has higher quality content
- and that the library has more content
- but google’s interface is easier to use
- prefer to use library database for academic research
- prefer to use google for quick look ups

How does social networking sites factor into student research?
- for the most part, they don’t
- they use it for communication between group members when working together on a project

I wonder what’s going to happen to this project and ProQuest’s other research projects in light of the merger with CSA?

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