Assigning Inquiry: How Handouts for Research Assignments Guide Today's College Students
41 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2013
Date Written: July 12, 2010
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
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