Preliminary Findings from our Research Journals Project

This semester, the library asked 15 students to keep journals for a week (February 24 – March 2, 2011), recording every time they engaged in an information-seeking activity related to their academic lives. We also interviewed the students afterward to ask them about their research habits. We learned a lot from this window on students’ real-life research – this is just the tip of the iceberg! We’ll share more information in the fall.

Our student participants included:

  • 6 grad students and 9 undergrads (1 freshman, 4 sophomores, 2 juniors, and 2 seniors)
  • a range of majors, including 4 LSM students

The most frequent tasks students engaged in were:

  • searching for information on a topic, like “college students’ behaviors” or “freedom of speech” (31 searches)
  • searching for a known item, like a particular book, article, or video (27 searches)

The most frequent methods students used to complete their tasks were:

  • searching Google (42 searches)
  • searching a specific library database (17 searches)

The most popular databases students used were ProQuest, Academic Search Premier, and CCH IntelliConnect. The most popular websites they searched were Wikipedia and specific companies’ home pages.

Students most often did research during the afternoon (12:00 to 5:00), and most often in their dorm room (if they lived on campus). The students in our study generally said that the part of research they find the most difficult is coming up with the right search terms – both in online search engines and library databases – to get “the right information the first time.”

Stay tuned later this fall for more of what we learned about how students use information, the library, and other campus resources. We have a lot of data to analyze!