Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Article Note: On Humanities Grad Students and their Information Seeking Behavior

Citation for the article:

Barrett, Andy. "The Information-Seeking Habits of Graduate Student Researchers in the Humanities." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 31.4 (July 2005): 324-331.

I read this article via Omnifile.

This article seemed a good complement to the article on information literacy for humanities researchers I read some weeks ago. In his introduction, Barrett points out that most of the literature on the topic at hand has focused on humanities undergraduate students or humanities faculty. According to Barrett, "humanities graduate students, however, have received little attention from library researchers, and as a consequence their information-seeking habits are often assumed to resemble those of either faculty or undergraduates" (324). We don't have graduate programs in Humanities at my university; however, since Arts and Humanities is my area of specialization, I was interested in the article. The fact that I was a graduate student in a Humanities field also added to my interest.

The study is an exploration of information-seeking behaviors of graduate students. It uses models from undergraduate and faculty behaviors as reference. Barrett says that "the guiding research question was, 'do the information seeking habits of humanities graduate students distinguish them from faculty and undergraduate models? If so, how?'" (325). The study's data comes from interviews with a small sample (10) of graduate students in humanities including MA and PhD participants. As I read the article, I found myself recalling my experiences as a graduate student in English. This was because a lot of the behaviors described in the article were behaviors I had or could relate to.

The interview questions asked about the following topics: uses of electronic information sources, interpersonal contacts, range of sources consulted, information retrieval strategies, and how research projects are initiated. The article presents the results and provides a discussion. Barrett discovers that some aspects of information-seeking behavior are specific to the graduate students. He writes that "although there are substantial areas that overlap, the model of graduate information-seeking behavior that emerges from this study is not a clear reflection of either faculty or undergraduate models" (329). Some of the examples of this that Barrett gives include:
  • Like faculty, graduate students "are interested in primary materials and will travel to remote locations to obtain access to them" (329).
  • Like undergraduates, graduate students "regularly use electronic information technology and often utilize generic Internet search engines to find general information on a topic" (330).
  • Unlike undergraduates and faculty, graduate students "deal with time pressures unique to the progression of their programs, including comprehensive examination schedules, prospective deadlines, and expectations of timely project progression and completion" (330).
Barrett concludes by stating the significance of these findings for librarians. He suggests that librarians should approach their service to these graduate students in terms of "zones of intervention." This is based on the idea that a graduate student will make a certain progress from his MA to the PhD in established stages. According to Barrett, "by recognizing patterns in humanities graduate student research behavior at particular program stages, librarians can better provide key services to targeted groups" (330).


Shosh said...

Thanks for the link. That's an excellent article and a thorough study.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Shosh: Glad you found it interesting. And you are welcome. Looks like you have an interesting blog on your end, so I will have to stop by sometime. In the meantime, best and keep on blogging.