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«Graduate Student Needs in Relation to Library Research Skills Shawna Young and Warren Jacobs California State University Stanislaus Shawna Young, ...»

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Running head: GRADUATE STUDENT LIBRARY RESEARCH SKILLS

Graduate Student Needs in Relation to Library Research Skills

Shawna Young and Warren Jacobs

California State University Stanislaus

Shawna Young, Center for Excellence in Graduate Education, California State University

Stanislaus; Warren Jacobs, Library, California State University Stanislaus

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Shawna Young, Center for

Excellence in Graduate Education, California State University Stanislaus, One University Circle, Turlock, CA 95382. Phone: (209) 664-6645. Email: syoung@csustan.edu Journal of Modern Education Review, ISSN 2155-7993, USA March 2013, Volume 3, No. 3, pp. 181–191 Running head: GRADUATE STUDENT LIBRARY RESEARCH SKILLS Graduate Student Needs in Relation to Library Research Skills Abstract Traditionally, graduate study includes a research component, requiring library skills to locate relevant literature. Upon matriculation into graduate programs, many students are underprepared in library research skills, making library instruction a priority for the success of graduate students. This qualitative study, utilizing emergent design, was developed to help identify needs of graduate students in relation to library research skills. Based on findings of this study, the coinvestigators offer recommendations for the support of graduate students with respect to library research skills.

Journal of Modern Education Review, ISSN 2155-7993, USA March 2013, Volume 3, No. 3, pp. 181–191 Running head: GRADUATE STUDENT LIBRARY RESEARCH SKILLS Graduate Student Needs in Relation to Library Research Skills Background Traditionally, graduate study includes a research component, requiring library skills to locate relevant literature (Miller, Chabot, & Messina, 2009). Upon matriculation into graduate programs, many students are underprepared in library research skills (Chu & Law, 2007; Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 2001), making library instruction a priority for the success of graduate students (Collins & Veal, 2004).

Library Anxiety Research suggests there can be anxiety related to use of library resources because of lack of corresponding knowledge and skills, which in turn can contribute to reduced confidence as a graduate student, which can result in procrastination and/or avoidance, which ultimately can impact academic achievement.

Adult learners will be expected to use online databases to perform research for their course assignments. Block (2007) studied re-entry students completing their graduate programs through distance learning. In cases where re-entry students did not have previous opportunities to perform research using online databases, library anxiety ensued (Block, 2007). Collins and Veal (2004) found that an adult learner with the highest level of library anxiety had a negative self-perception of his/her ability to access information using the Internet for research.

Information literacy instruction facilitates searching skills and enhances students’ confidence when performing research (Collins & Veal, 2004). Librarians should furnish knowledge-based instruction in the use of relevant databases, along with hands-on computer instruction to develop skills in accessing information (Collins & Veal, 2004).

Journal of Modern Education Review, ISSN 2155-7993, USA March 2013, Volume 3, No. 3, pp. 181–191 Running head: GRADUATE STUDENT LIBRARY RESEARCH SKILLS Jiao and Onwuegbuzie (1998; 1999a; 1999b; 2001) researched the causes of library anxiety. They determined that graduate students possessing the highest level of perfectionism will suffer from library anxiety (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 1998). Other behaviors that indicate library anxiety include procrastination and search avoidance (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 1998).

Perfectionism and library anxiety are thought to be the causes for graduate students’ failure to complete their thesis or dissertation (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 1998). Interestingly, Jiao and Onwuegbuzie (1999a) found that library-anxious graduate students were not worried in any other area of their lives. In a study of 148 graduate students, the researchers determined that library-anxious students perceive themselves as incompetent in comparison with other students who are thought to be more proficient at performing research (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 1999b). In order to gain social acceptance and avoid embarrassment, a graduate student who believes he/she is incompetent will struggle to keep his/her incompetence hidden rather than seek assistance from a librarian or instructor (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 1999b; Kwon, Onwuegbuzie, & Alexander, 2007). This self-defeating behavior could demonstrate the relationship between library anxiety and social acceptance (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 1999b).

Search avoidance might indicate learned helplessness due to a perception of unrealistic standards prescribed by others (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 1999b). Librarians and teaching faculty should not assume that graduate students’ reading and note-taking skills are adequate (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 2001).

Library anxiety can cause behaviors that, left unchecked, may lead to a repeating cycle of procrastination and search avoidance (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 2001; Onwuegbuzie & Jiao, 2000).

Procrastination increased library anxiety leading to further deterioration of the student’s study habits (Jiao & Onwuegbuzie, 2001; Onwuegbuzie & Jiao, 2000). Procrastination results from Journal of Modern Education Review, ISSN 2155-7993, USA March 2013, Volume 3, No. 3, pp. 181–191 Running head: GRADUATE STUDENT LIBRARY RESEARCH SKILLS fear of failure and task aversiveness (Onwuegbuzie & Jiao, 2000). Onwuegbuzie and Jiao (2000) suggest that instructional librarians and academic advisors should collaborate to assist graduate students in focusing on the search process rather than any anxiety that they might be experiencing.





Kwon et al. (2007) found a link between a graduate student’s disposition towards critical thinking and library anxiety. A weak disposition to critical thinking led to a higher level of library anxiety (Kwon et al., 2007).

Onwuegbuzie and Jiao (1998) determined that a graduate student’s level of persistence during the search process is a likely predictor of library anxiety. When faced with difficulties in the search process, graduate students may experience feelings of uncertainty or helplessness, self-defeating thoughts, and mental disorganization, which decrease persistence while increasing library anxiety (Onwuegbuzie & Jiao, 1998). To counteract library anxiety, instructional librarians and teaching faculty should provide hands-on practice that leads to positive experiences when searching for information (Onwuegbuzie & Jiao, 1998).

Self-perception plays a part in library anxiety (Onwuegbuzie & Jiao, 2004). Graduate students with low levels of academic self-perception doubt their ability to reach their academic goals (Onwuegbuzie & Jiao, 2004). Older students with high levels of academic achievement, students with clearly defined learning styles, and graduate students with the highest levels of procrastination may experience library anxiety (Onwuegbuzie & Jiao, 2004).

Database Searching and Information-Seeking Behavior Miller et al. (2009) studied graduate students as they searched for scientific information in a database. They found that a systematic process of four steps was the best method for finding relevant articles on their research topic (Miller et al., 2009). Graduate students should first Journal of Modern Education Review, ISSN 2155-7993, USA March 2013, Volume 3, No. 3, pp. 181–191 Running head: GRADUATE STUDENT LIBRARY RESEARCH SKILLS search for information, then sort the results by publication date or number of times the article was cited, inspect the abstracts to determine if there are relevant articles, and repeat the entire process to find additional relevant literature (Miller et al., 2009).

Previous Internet searching experience predicts the sophistication of searching strategies used by graduate students (Korobili, Malliari, & Zapounidou, 2011; Wu &Tsai, 2007). Despite prior use of library databases, doctoral students at the University of Parma start new research using Google (Vezzosi, 2009). Students do not like to invest the time and effort needed to learn how to search in complex databases (Vezzosi, 2009). Graduate students choose ease of use when deciding which databases or search engines in which to search for information (Kuruppu & Gruber, 2006). For students who lack the advanced searching skills that would improve the precision of their results, convenience is the most important aspect of the retrieval process rather than the quality of information sources (Kuruppu & Gruber, 2006).

Graduate students utilizing a database with a thesaurus-enhanced search interface are more likely to find the information they are seeking (Shiri & Revie, 2006). By using search terms from the thesaurus, users will find more precise and relevant results (Shiri & Revie, 2006).

Graduate students may be computer literate but may not possess the searching skills needed to find relevant information on their research topics (Chu & Law, 2007). Many graduate students are unaware of the print and electronic resources available from the library (Kuruppu & Gruber, 2006). Kuruppu and Gruber (2006) determined that graduate students are uncomfortable when asking a librarian for assistance due to a belief that they should already know how to use an academic library.

Students at the graduate level benefit from information literacy instruction (Chu & Law, 2007). As doctoral students in education learned about keyword searching, their search queries Journal of Modern Education Review, ISSN 2155-7993, USA March 2013, Volume 3, No. 3, pp. 181–191 Running head: GRADUATE STUDENT LIBRARY RESEARCH SKILLS became more complex (Chu & Law, 2007). Recognition of the importance of searching skills leads to more frequent use of those skills when seeking information (Chu & Law, 2007).

Depending upon the context of the search, researchers can ascertain distinctive patterns in the information-seeking behavior of graduate students (Kim, 2009).

Emde, Morris, and Claassen-Wilson (2009) found that graduate students are not interested in experimenting with new discovery tools. Graduate students will return to the databases where they had previous success in finding relevant information (Emde et al., 2009;

Kuruppu & Gruber, 2006). In testing of 61 post-graduate students, researchers examined humansystem interaction and user satisfaction with the display and features to determine the reasons for a preference of databases (Vilar & Zumer, 2008).

High Impact Library Instruction Practices Due to the complexity of searching for information in an online database, re-entry students may experience library anxiety and computer anxiety (Bellard, 2007). In a study of reentry students in the Master’s of Social Work program at Adelphi University, Bellard (2007) found that the students were unfamiliar with online library resources. After students were exposed to databases and catalogs in a non-credited information competence workshop, additional time and practice were needed to alleviate anxiety and promote student success (Bellard, 2007). Students felt that the information competence instruction provided in the workshop should be integrated into the Social Work program curriculum (Bellard, 2007).

In a survey of graduate students at the University of Notre Dame, Kayongo and Helm (2010) found that 44% of the students surveyed did not utilize reference librarian services. Since many graduate students are unaware of the library resources and services that are available, librarians are advised to reach out to graduate students early in Journal of Modern Education Review, ISSN 2155-7993, USA March 2013, Volume 3, No. 3, pp. 181–191 Running head: GRADUATE STUDENT LIBRARY RESEARCH SKILLS their academic careers (Fidzani, 1998; Rempel, 2010; Rempel & Davidson, 2008).

Librarians should provide information literacy instruction at the time when students need assistance and will be most receptive (Kayongo & Helm, 2010; Lei, 2008). A skills audit helped librarians at Australian National University to identify courses that would meet student needs for information literacy instruction (Perrett, 2004). The literature review workshops at Oregon State University enabled librarians to assist graduate students in becoming scholars (Rempel, 2010;

Rempel & Davidson, 2008). Disciplinary and programmatic differences impacted the type of research assistance needed (Rempel, 2010; Rempel & Davidson, 2008).

Hoffman, Antwi-Nsiah, Feng, and Stanley (2008) found that graduate students at the University of Western Ontario have a preference for subject-specific online workshops. Topics of interest include research strategies, use of citation tools like RefWorks, and currency tools for scholarly literature (Hoffman et al., 2008). Lechner (2007) developed an online tutorial on the CINAHL database that enhanced the process of finding health sciences articles in comparison to a traditional classroom presentation.

A collaboration of librarians and teaching faculty led to the development of a library training unit for graduate students in education (Blummer, Kenton, & Song, 2010). Students explored the library’s website, learned about the best databases for educational research, performed advanced searches for information on their research topics, documented their sources using American Psychological Association (APA) format, and constructed a literature review (Blummer et al., 2010).

An important component of information literacy instruction for graduate students is the assessment of instruction and learning outcomes (Emmett & Emde, 2007). Instruction librarians may assess several learning outcomes for a credit course or select one or two learning outcomes Journal of Modern Education Review, ISSN 2155-7993, USA March 2013, Volume 3, No. 3, pp. 181–191 Running head: GRADUATE STUDENT LIBRARY RESEARCH SKILLS for a research skills workshop (Emmett & Emde, 2007). Emmett and Emde (2007) have identified assessments that use problem-based scenarios as the best way to determine the development of information competencies.



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