Students are savvy Web users, but still have problems finding, evaluating, and using information for research. Project Information Literacy has found that freshman college students have difficulty starting a research project.
Here are some of the issues that students encounter during a research project:
- Students struggle with writing research questions.
- A limited scope of keywords can result in a frustrating search.
- Students find it hard to navigate the many types of sources.
- Students often limit the types of sources they use.
- Students can be overwhelmed by information overload.
- Students hesitate to ask for help.
It can be difficult to find relevant information and add new ideas to a topic when there is so much data out there. Teachers can encourage students to collect their own data via interviews or surveys. Teachers can focus on the importance of keywords for searching. One of the most important skills a student can develop is learning how to evaluate sources and develop analytical skills in the era of Big Data.
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein
These days, students get to high school or college with online search habits already formed. According to a Pew Research study, Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube are students’ first choices for finding information. Why? Because Google and Wikipedia are easy and simple to use and the results are immediate. Easy access to wanted information is the key.
Why don’t students use the online educational databases purchased by the library? The simple answer: There are too many obstacles getting to database information. First, students have to find the list of databases posted somewhere on the school or library website. Second, once the list of databases is found, students have to determine which of 50+ databases is right for their information needs. Third, students need to know a login and password to access the databases. Finally, 4 or 5 mouse clicks later, they arrive at the database search box and can begin research.
It is a vicious circle: Low usage of library databases endangers the budget for online educational resources; but students do not use the databases because of obstacles to easy access, which results in low usage statistics.
North Dakota’s most recent database subscription to Literati Public is a step towards eliminating obstacles to database information. Literati Public features discovery searching and geo-IP recognition. The discovery searching feature links the ODIN Catalog, the Literati reference collection, and the subscription databases from Gale, EBSCO, and ProQuest. The search box taps into all these resources simultaneously. Geo-IP recognition means that your Internet address (IP number) is coming from North Dakota, which has paid for access, so you are allowed entry without having to login.
Changing student search habits begins with easy access to library database information. Features like discovery searching and geo-IP recognition help remove obstacles to database research.
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” –Albert Einstein
Do you know any high school students who are not sure what they want to do for a living? Maybe some of your patrons are veterans looking for a civilian career where they can use skills learned in the military. MyNextMove is an interactive U.S. Department of Labor site designed to help you explore the skills and knowledge required for different jobs. You can search careers by key words or browse careers by industry. You can answer questions about the type of work you might like and the system will suggest careers that match your interests and training. You can find apprenticeship programs, or green careers. Discover new and emerging careers with a bright outlook; jobs that will grow rapidly in the next few years, or jobs that have large numbers of openings. Add MyNextMove to your job search toolbox.
“School libraries are the foundations of our culture — not luxuries.” Laurie Halse Anderson- Author
In 2012, the Pew Research Center conducted an online survey of teachers. They were asked what research sources their students are most likely to use. The top four sources students use are: Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and their peers. Less than 20% of students use databases or librarians for research. 64% of teachers say today’s digital technologies do more to distract students than to help them academically.
The Pew study also noted that today’s students lack traditional, low-tech skills like reading printed reports, talking (not texting) on the phone, or conversing (not emailing) with a colleague at the next desk.
[Purcell, Kristen, et al. “How Teens Do Research in the Digital World.” Pew Research Center Report, November 1, 2012, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Student-Research]
The subscription databases provided by the ND State Library are credible sources for student research information. They are easy to search and provide a variety of citation formats. The challenge for teachers and librarians is to get our students to use them.
“A library is richer than Fort Knox and everybody has the key.” (Robert Morgan, Author)