Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Students, Searching, and Googling

This is the third and final post on the series of articles from the Spring 2005 issue of Library Trends. The citation is:

Griffiths, Jillian R. and Peter Brophy. "Student Searching Behavior and the Web: Academic Resources and Google." Library Trends 53.4 (Spring 2005): 539-554.

This article seems to go well along with Ebersole's article, so I went on reading. It is a report of studies on search engine use in the United Kingdom. Like many academic articles, this one opens with a literature review that looks at recent research on search engine usage. This section discusses limitations of previous studies as well as topics that have been investigated wich as student populations and searching.

Next, the article looks at the results of the studies that the authors are presenting. Among the findings, the authors note that search engines dominate how students seek information. One of the initial findings is that "45 percent of students used Google as their first port of call when locating information" (545). The study also found that use is low by students when it comes to academic resources. In my humble experience, this just confirms what I know and see already. If I needed further evidence, as I sit at the Information Desk drafting the notes that will become this post (earlier in the week), a student just told her classmate, "I just went to Yahoo! and there it was." I have no idea what "it" was, and I know this is strictly anecdotal, but it is an interesting piece of timing. However, I know from teaching experience that encouraging students to use academic resources like databases is not easy. Many articles and blogs posts show concern over this. It will be one thing that will keep librarians like me working. I do find reassurance in the fact that once you show students how a database provides quality results, they will go back to it the next time. This is just an observation from experience; I wonder if some librarian out there has tried to validate it somehow.

In their conclusion, the authors summarize what they learned:

  • Students prefer to locate information or resources via search engines.
  • Students' use of academic resources is low.
  • Students find it difficult to locate information and resources.
  • Students may trade quality of results for effort and time spent searching.
  • Students' use of SEs now influences their perceptions and expectations of other electronic resources (550).
I think a search on Technorati or a similar tool on OPACs and students will likely find many blog posts from librarians discussing how OPACs should or not be like search engines to satisfy students. Just as a note, I just did a very quick search, which I am sure other readers can tweak to find more relevant results. As for the other findings, I would like to remain hopeful. Maybe it is because I am a librarian and an educator, so I believe in the power of showing others how to do things, of making things easier when I can. It takes some work, some gentle nurturing, and maybe some extra marketing and promotion. At any rate, this is a good article to look over.

No comments: