The series of studies, known as the “Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries Project (ERIAL)” is a collaborative effort by five Illinois universities that aims to better understand students’ research habits. Its findings are set to be published by the American Library Association this fall.
One hundred and fifty-six students who were interviewed at the five schools about their research habits mentioned Google more than any database. The 60 students who participated in a “research process interview” — with researchers following them around the library as they searched for information — frequently used the search engine poorly. And when they used other databases, they expected them to work the same way that Google does.
“It wasn’t so much that students were inefficient in their use of Google, but rather that students are often ill-equipped to sufficiently evaluate or refine the results that are returned,” says Andrew Asher, an anthropologist at Bucknell University and one of the project leads. “…I don’t think this is a problem limited to students.”