In Reference to Reference:
How do Students Seek Information? What can Reference Services do to Help?
Barbara Fister
Oberlin Group Annual Meeting 10/12/02

How do students seek information?
Three large-scale studies have recently been completed on students' information seeking habits. The following findings are ones of interest in reconsidering reference services:

The OCLC White Paper on the Information Habits of College Students (June 2002)


Dimensions and Use of the Scholarly Information Environment conducted by Outsell for Digital Library Federation and Council on Library and Information Resources (released Oct. 16, 2002)


The Pew Internet Life study: The Internet Goes to College (Sept. 15, 2002)
This study presents some methodological problems that impair its usefulness. Two quotes and analysis will suffice to demonstrate what I mean:


One more note: In 1990 I did a small-scale qualitative study of the research processes of successful undergraduate researchers ("The Research Processes of Undergraduate Students," Journal of Academic Librarianship 18 [July 1992]: 163-169); last spring I replicated the study to see if there were significant changes in a digital world. Though I haven't finished analyzing the interview transcripts, initial results suggest that, while the tools and resources may be quite different, their processes for defining research questions, locating and selecting evidence, and using it in their composing process haven't changed significantly.


What are the implications for reference service?


Fister's "Top Five Bad Reasons to Move to Virtual Reference"


Some practical suggestions for making the analog reference desk more effective

Barbara Fister October 16, 2002