Despite the wealth of information available on the Internet, a recent study suggests that many students lack basic research skills.
According to the latest Project Information Literacy Progress Report, 84 percent of students say that when it comes to course-based research, getting started is their biggest challenge. The three sources cited most often by students were course readings, search engines like Google, and scholarly research databases. Only 30 percent asked a librarian for research help. The online survey polled 8,353 students from 25 college campuses nationwide.
Alison J. Head, a co-principal investigator for the project, said the results suggest that today’s students struggle with a feeling of information overload.
“They feel overwhelmed, and they’re developing a strategy for not drowning in all information out there,” she said. “They’re basically taking how they learned to research in high school with them to college, since it’s worked for them in the past.”
Ms. Head said the findings show that college students approach research as a hunt for the right answer instead of a process of evaluating different arguments and coming up with their own interpretation.
“Not being aware of the diverse resources that exist or the different ways knowledge is created and shared is dangerous,” she said. “College is a time to find information and learn about multiple arguments, and exploring gets sacrificed if you conduct research in this way.”
However, Ms. Head said the state of college research isn’t completely discouraging. In the report, only 26 percent of students said they had a problem evaluating sources. Also, students on average used at least four standards when evaluating the legitimacy of a print-based source and at least seven standards when it came to a Web-based source.