Thursday, April 02, 2009

Other Information Literacy Research

Project Information Literacy (PIL) (

This research project investigates how college students conduct research. The original pilot project was conducted at St. Mary's College in California; the research is now being conducted by the iSchool at the Univ. of Washington with support from Proquest using samples from different college campuses from across the US. The website includes publications and a "public service" YouTube video based on results.

Some of the more interesting results from this project (beyond where students find information), I think, are the findings that students struggle with understanding what college research is, what faculty expect, and that faculty (in their samples) offer little guidance to students about expectations.

Information Search Process (ISP) (

Although not specifically information literacy, Carol Kuhlthau has been doing research on student information seeking behavior for over 20 years, resulting in the development of the information search process model. The model is a holistic view of information seeking (or the research process) with affective (feelings), cognitive (thoughts), and physical (actions) attributes for each stage. Kuhlthau's research is described in her book Seeking Meaning and applied in her text Guided Inquiry. Although the initial research was focused on middle and high school students, her studies were replicated with college students and information-intensive professions.

The last stage in the ISP is presentation, which is often (traditionally) where the writing process is identified so that information seeking and writing/communication are separated. But I think James Elmborg was right in his call for the research and writing processes to be taught holistically. Kuhlthau's emphasis on seeking meaning rather than simply finding information seems to support that and gives us a way to see how the 2 processes are intertwined and perhaps are really one more holistic process.

Kuhlthau's research, I think, represent the only studies that have attempted to understand the feelings and thoughts associated with each stage of the process so that we hopefully can identify strategies to help students along. Combined with the PIL findings about students confusion about what college research is and what faculty expectations are for research, there seems to be a lot for us to still understand and work on to improve IL pedagogy.

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