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UC Irvine Faculty Contribute to Project Information Literacy

The UC Irvine Libraries is participating in Project Information Literacy, a national study that aims to understand how young adults conceptualize and operationalize research in a digital age. The large-scale research study, which is co-directed by Dr. Alison Head, Research Scientist, and Dr. Michael Eisenberg, Dean Emeritus and Professor from the University of Washington Information School, investigates how early adults conduct research for course work and how they conduct "everyday research" for use in their daily lives.

During fall 2009, the Project Information Literacy (PIL) Team conducted a content analysis of handouts instructors distribute for course-related research assignments. They collected 191 handouts from instructors teaching undergraduates at 28 different U.S. institutions of higher education. Six handouts from UC Irvine faculty were included in the study.

Investigators looked at what types of guidance instructors provide to students for course-related research assignments. Specifically, they examined how instructors’ handouts provided direction about: (1) structuring and organizing their assignments; (2) using different types of resources; and (3) evaluating sources and preparing the final paper for submission. It is important to note that only the research handout was analyzed; the content analysis did not include the syllabus or any other course information provided to the students.

Trends from the analysis of UC Irvine handouts were similar to trends for the entire sample. The handouts from all 28 institutions most frequently provided guidance on:

  • Preparing the assignment, especially paper length (76%)
  • Required elements of the paper, such as introduction and conclusion (66%)
  • Citation style (61%)

The majority of the handouts did not include guidance on:

  • Using resources for research, such as blogs (96%), Wikipedia (89%), and search engines (81%)
  • Consulting with a librarian about the research assignment (87%)

The handout content analysis is part of PIL’s ongoing research about how college students approach the task of conducting course-related and everyday life research. In light of PIL previous research findings, this study helped the researchers learn more about the coaching role instructors may play in the student research process.

For more information about UC Irvine’s participation in Project Information Literacy, please contact Cathy Palmer, Head of Education and Outreach, (cpalmer@uci.edu or x44972).

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