Friday, November 12, 2010

Sourcing and evaluating information

As many of you are busy completing assignments, an interesting report has been issued about how students source and evaluate the information they include in their course work.

The Project Information Literacy report surveyed over 8,000 students across 21 American campuses. Some of their findings included:
  • Students in the sample took little at face value and reported they were frequent evaluators of information culled from the Web and to a lesser extent, the campus library. More often than anything else, respondents considered whether information was up-todate and current when evaluating Web content (77%) and library materials (67%) for course work.
  • Evaluating information was often a collaborative process—almost two-thirds of the respondents (61%) reportedly turned to friends and/or family members when they needed help and advice with sorting through and evaluating information for personal use. Nearly half of the students in the sample (49%) frequently asked instructors for assistance with assessing the quality of sources for course work—far fewer asked librarians (11%) for assistance.
  • The majority of the sample used routines for completing one research assignment to the next, including writing a thesis statement (58%), adding personal perspective to papers (55%), and developing a working outline (51%). Many techniques were learned in high school and ported to college, according to students we interviewed.
  • Despite their reputation of being avid computer users who are fluent with new technologies, few students in our sample had used a growing number of Web 2.0 applications within the past six months for collaborating on course research assignments and/or managing research tasks.
  • For over three-fourths (84%) of the students surveyed, the most difficult step of the course-related research process was getting started. Defining a topic (66%), narrowing it down (62%), and filtering through irrelevant results (61%) frequently hampered students in the sample, too. Follow-up interviews suggest students lacked the research acumen for framing an inquiry in the digital age where information abounds and intellectual discovery was paradoxically overwhelming for them.
  • Comparatively, students reported having far fewer problems finding information for personal use, though sorting through results for solving an information problem in their daily lives hamstrung more than a third of the students in the sample (41%).
  • Unsurprisingly, what mattered most to students while they were working on courserelated research assignments was passing the course (99%), finishing the assignment (97%), and getting a good grade (97%). Yet, three-quarters of the sample also reported they considered carrying out comprehensive research of a topic (78%) and learning something new (78%) of importance to them, too.
If you are having trouble getting started there are a number of online tutorials that may be helpful:, DCU's LETS tutorial, WIT's OLAS tutorial and Intute's Internet detective tutorial.

For assistance with evaluating resources, please see ITB's guide; don't forget to use the library databases - you can find leaflets for each database in the library.

And finally, be one of the 11%! If you need help, ask us at the library desk.

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