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Information Literacy: A Portal for Faculty: IL at Puget Sound

Information Literacy Recommendations

Information Literacy Competencies for  Puget Sound Students

     Since 2006, several liberal arts colleges, including the University of Puget Sound, have used the Research Practices Survey to measure the research experiences and competencies of their incoming first-year students.  Results consistently show that incoming first-year students, including our own, struggle with understanding and applying basic information literacy concepts.  Recognizing the importance of information literacy competencies to lifelong learning, several of our peer institutions have begun to address this issue by incorporating specific information literacy rubrics within their first-year curricula.  Beginning in 2013-2014 academic year, information literacy instruction will be sequenced into the required Seminars in Scholarly Inquiry. Because the acquisition of information literacy competencies is an iterative, developmental process, the librarians further recommend that all students be given multiple opportunities to hone their information literacy skills throughout their time at Puget Sound.

Research Practices Survey

Since 2006, Collins Library has administered the Research Practices Survey to incoming first-year Puget Sound students.  The Research Practices Survey is an online survey instrument designed specifically for liberal arts colleges to measure the research experiences, attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and critical capacities of beginning college students.  The hope is that classroom faculty, librarians, and campus administrators will find the survey results helpful when making decisions about the content and process of instruction, requirements for assignments, and resources provided to students.

2010 Research Practices Survey Data

Taken by 44 percent of incoming first-year students

  • Students continue to be highly confident of their research skills and abilities.  Examples:

o   92 % believe that it is “very easy” or “somewhat easy” to determine whether a source is scholarly

o   83 % believe that it is “very easy” or “somewhat easy” to know when to document a source

  • Students have had limited experience with using standard library resources and tools.  Examples:

o   Only 57 percent had ever used an online library catalog

o   Only 50 percent had ever used a subscription database

o   92 percent indicated that a general search engine like Google was their main research tool

  • Students have limited knowledge of standard research terms.  Examples:

o   46 percent correctly defined a peer-reviewed journal

o   When shown three citations, 59 percent could correctly identify a book, 23 percent could correctly identify a journal article, and 12 percent could correctly identify a chapter within a book.

o   21 percent could correctly distinguish between a scholarly journal and a popular magazine

o   73 percent could correctly distinguish between secondary and primary sources

o   50 percent could correctly explain when a citation is required

  • Students have limited knowledge of successful research strategies.  Examples:

o   37 percent knew that clicking on subject headings in a library catalog would lead them to additional publications on that topic

o   23 percent could correctly use “and,” or “or” to construct a database search query

o   Eight percent knew how to truncate a search word to retrieve all grammatical possibilities for that word

  • Students have limited knowledge of strategies for evaluating sources.  Example:

o   63 percent said that they would give equal weight to  multiple criteria before deciding to use a source, including whether or not it is available on the Internet, how easily they can obtain it, and whether or not it is scholarly

  • In spite of their general confidence, some students did express concern about their research skills and indicated a desire to learn more about conducting research and incorporating information into larger assignments.  Examples of comments:

o   “What is a more scholarly way to conduct research instead of using popular search engines??”

o    “I would really like to have a better understanding of which sources are appropriate for research. I'm still a little fuzzy on knowing which sources are scholarly and which ones are not.”

o    “I do have a hard time finding credible sources and integrating them into a clearly cohesive paper.”