Assigning Inquiry: How Handouts for Research Assignments Guide Today's College Students

41 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2013

See all articles by Alison Head

Alison Head

Project Information Literacy; MetaLAB at Harvard

Michael Eisenberg

University of Washington - The Information School

Date Written: July 12, 2010

Abstract

A report of findings from a content analysis of 191 course-related research assignment handouts distributed to undergraduates on 28 college campuses across the U.S., as part of Project Information Literacy. A majority of handouts in the sample emphasized standards about the mechanics of compiling college research papers, more so than guiding students to finding and using sources for research. Most frequently, handouts advised students to use their campus library shelves and/or online library sources when conducting research for assignments, though most handouts lacked specific details about which of the libraryʼs hundreds of databases to search. Few handouts advised students about using Internet sources, even though many of todayʼs students almost always integrate the Web into their research activities. Very few handouts recommended consulting a librarian about research assignments. Details about evaluating information, plagiarism, and instructor availability appeared in only a minority of the handouts analyzed. The findings suggest that handouts for academic research assignments provide students with more how-to procedures and conventions for preparing a final product for submission, than guidance about conducting research and finding and using information in the digital age.

Keywords: College students, information-seeking behavior, information literacy, research methods

Suggested Citation

Head, Alison and Eisenberg, Michael, Assigning Inquiry: How Handouts for Research Assignments Guide Today's College Students (July 12, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2281494 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2281494

Alison Head (Contact Author)

Project Information Literacy ( email )

4760 Montecito Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA CA 95404
United States
7078007590 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://projectinfolit.org

MetaLAB at Harvard ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 012138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://alison_head@gse.harvard.edu

Michael Eisenberg

University of Washington - The Information School ( email )

Box 353350
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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