Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Analyzing Library Skills Survey Results

Following are the questions included in a recent survey designed for a class that met in the Library for instruction.
  1. How do you keep the related terms grouped together in a search statement? Results
  2. What will a truncation or wildcard symbol do?  Results
  3. Which Boolean operator reduces the number of results the more times it is used between search terms?  Results
  4. Which Boolean operator will typically return the largest set of results?  Results
  5. When you need to find the full text of an article for which you already have the full citation, which tool works the best?  Results
  6. Have you had library instruction before?  Results
  7. Do you understand the assignment for this class? Results
  8. Which of these databases have you used? Results
  9. Have you chosen a disability to research for the assignment in this class? If so, which one? Results
  10. What one thing would you like to learn today?  Results
For several of the responses it appears that a good number chose the correct answer, but the majority did not answer it right.  Ten out of 18 seem to know that parentheses keep related words grouped together in a search statement.  Only seven understand that a truncation code (the asterisk in most databases *) will help find variations on a word. 

Question 3 provided two correct answers, so I should have thought through that a bit more.  Both the Boolean operators AND and NOT will continue to reduce your results.  If I did this again, I would delete the operator NOT from the list of possible choices.

Eight correctly chose OR as the operator that brings back more results, while nine chose AND.  Only five selected the A-Z Journal List as the place to go to find the full text of an article.  This is one of the least understood research tools on our campus, so it is no wonder.  We need to do better at instructing students on its use.  Ten students chose the library catalog as the place to go for the full text, two chose Google or Google Scholar, and one said their smart phone. 

Fifteen stated that they had received library instruction before, though 11 said it was a long time ago.  One claimed that he/she could teach the class, because he/she had attended so many times.  This is the person that I need to involve in teaching the class.  How can I do that?  I need to get the students to teach each other.

Admittedly, I goofed on the database question, not making it possible for them to select more than one database, so this was not as accurate as it should have been.  Still, it gives me a sense for which databases they know.

I wish I had looked at the answers for question #9 and searched the topic(s) they entered in the survey.  Indubitably, this is a learning experience for me.  They wanted learn more about Down Syndrome, Asperger's Syndrome, and prominent persons like athletes with disabilies.

Photo found on Aspergers and the Alien blog written by Amy Murphy.
Following are the comments provided when asked what they wanted to learn in the class:
  • I would like to learn more about notable figures who have down syndrome
  • how to find articles that are to the point
  • Find reliable and easy to read sources
  • find articles on Downs
  • I would like to find an athlete that i would like to report on
  • i would like to learn how these data bases can help me find valid information quickly and effectively.
It strikes as interesting that bullet points two and three speak to the challenge of finding reliable, credible, and scholarly sources that are easy to read or understand.  It seems that many of today's college students really struggle reading the peer-reviewed articles.  This is something I encountered during the one-credit course I taught last semester.  In fact, one of my colleagues has begun to conduct some research on the reading levels of college students.  Well, this is a hard thing to gauge, so she has gathered their bibliographies that are attached to actual research papers and calculated the reading levels of the articles they cite.  I'm uncertain whether or not she includes the grades they receive on the paper, which might offer clues on their comprehension of the cited sources, but it seems she has not as that may conflict with policies governing research subjects. 

Anyway, reading abilities, or the lack thereof, do inhibit many college students from succeeding in higher education.

Young Girl Reading by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot. Photo by Cliff1066 on

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