Saturday, June 23, 2007

ALA 2007 - LRRT Research Forum: Information Seeking from Childhood through College

Note: LRRT is debuting a research mentor program; find the link and more info see their website (after a few days). Also, to volunteer for an LRRT committee, contact the incoming president soon.

The four programs in this session were ordered by age of the participants.

First was Lynne McKechnie (the I School at UW) speaking on “Spiderman is not for babies” The Boys and reading problem from the perspective of the boys themselves.

Boys lag behind girls in standardized tests of reading skills. McKechnie conducted semi structured interviews with boys aged 7 to 12 and made lists of all of their reading materials (including books, videos). They found that boys are reading. What they are reading is different between boys and girls.

This was a qualitative study and her results were presented in the voices of the boys who were interviewed. There were lots of quotes to illustrate the findings. Some of them were collected by (i.e. interviews were conducted by) her students (presumably MLS or PhD students). I would have been interested in a hearing a little bit more about the researchers’ perspectives in order to get a feel for their research paradigms

Melissa Gross (Florida State) presented next. Her presentation was entitled The Information Seeking Behaviors of School Children” which was part of a larger study that used both qualitative and quantitative methods which was published in the form of a book by Scarecrow Press. She focused on the qualitative results in this presentation. In it she compares self-generated and imposed information seeking. Some of the children were excited and happy to be asked to find some piece of information by a teacher or classmate but while this was looked on positively in the younger children it was perceived as not so positive by older children.

She began by defining the terms in her research question and the roles the people in her study generally took. She used focused in-depth interviews with seven teachers from one school including teachers, students (between the ages of 4 and 12), and the school library media specialist. She also spent some time explaining the limitations placed on the study by the ages of the children participants. She presented her results in her power point slides and provided anecdotal evidence (the childrens’ stories about their reading) verbally.

Here’s a thought: I wonder how one creates trustworthiness in this kind of study. Can you still use member checking with young children? How? Maybe through triangulation. I’ll have to look at her book to find out I s’pose.

It will also be interesting to read all of the presenters’ published research reports. It seemed to me that they presented here in language and terms that would be accessible to this audience.

The third presentation was on tweens’ information seeking behavior. Tweens are ages 9 to 13. Along with this information, he described some of their other characteristics and context. What he’s presenting is part of a larger study by Karen Fisher called “Talking to You” and had to do with finding out why people prefer to turn to each other for information, particularly for what she calls “everyday life information seeking.” In order to gather data they planned a “Tween Day” sort of one day camp which they repeated three times at three different locations (one on campus – UW, an urban outreach ministry, and a suburban elementary school).

They were asking things like what types of everyday information do they perceive a need for? How do they seek everyday information? What barriers do they encounter? (and four more that I missed because the slide passed two quickly).

They used focus groups, creative interactive web-based exercises, individual interviews all of which were recorded to collect data. He didn’t talk much (nor did the other presenters) about how they analyzed their data. He presented results and quotes from transcripts both in his power point slides and verbally. He gave a hint of their data analysis in describing their need to ‘decode’ some of the tweens’ terms (“stuff”); he talked about coding the transcript of the group interviews.

It’s interesting that, so far, none of the information sharing is happening in electronic environments. Whoops! Just as I write this, one of the quotes on one of his slides included a reference to chat rooms.

As a side note, he is a very engaging speaker and obviously passionate about tweens and his research…so much so, in fact, that he’s having trouble stopping.

Here’s an interesting finding (that they’re going to explore further): when asked what librarians can teach you to use to find information, newspapers and magazines and articles were the category that got the fewest votes.

Lynn Westbrook presented last on “Google the Random Stuff: Mental Models of Academic Information Seeking”. Her purpose for the study was to use mental models to examine information seeking; how they visualize and conceptualize about information when they’re dealing with an imposed query. The sample for the study was purposive and self-selected and bounded by matriculation level and academic achievement. She did in-depth interviews and observations, transcribed it all and used HyperResearch to code and analyze the data. Then she presented the components of some of her participants’ mental models.

She presented three different perspectives from the students in her study using quotes. Then she defined mental models and presented the advantages and disadvantages of their use as a frame work for research as well as how they’re used and how they develop. She spent most of her time expanding on the models that emerged from her data analysis.

Hmm, it would be interesting to look for how and if mental models and competency theory are related in the literature.

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