Information Needs and Behavior of Incoming Graduate Students: Initial Exploration

Concepts and Themes

Incoming graduate students research abilities and information literacy skills

Incoming graduate students have unique information needs due to the gap in expectations between perceived and actual research expertise. Undergraduate students typically have research topics assigned and research methods do not need to be extensive. As graduate students, it is expected that they are able to determine their own research topics and to locate the appropriate research materials to study and substantiate ideas. The research required for graduate study is more intense and self-directed, requiring higher levels of information literacy than undergraduate course work. The transition between undergraduate student and graduate student is abrupt, no matter if there is a lapse between enrollment, and a lack of information literacy skills during this process can hinder the transition.

Who graduate students typically rely on for guidance on research resources

Graduate students often rely on faculty to determine accepted standards of research resources within their specific academic program. Students utilize the resources suggested by faculty, limiting where research resources originate. Faculty mentoring and guidance during the research process influences students to use specific databases and particular information sources.

Improving information literacy skills in graduate students

In select studies, graduate students were oriented by library reference staff on research methods and information literacy skills. These students showed increased research skills, and had greater ease in locating appropriate materials for use in their research. They also reported utilizing new databases and better understanding research resources. Although these students reported positive results, the instance of reference library and orientation use is infrequent, with most graduate students declining reference librarians’ assistance for their research.

The role of anxiety in libraries

Students that experience library anxiety have a difficult time understanding library resources, and have high instances of procrastination. Anxiety affects research performance by inhibiting students’ ability to concentrate on research material and determining if the materials meet their research needs.

Research Questions after Literature Review

How would library orientation increase graduate student literary skills?

1.)  How would library orientation affect graduate student literary and research skills?

2.)  If library orientation is found effective, how would universities offer library orientation?

3.)  How should graduate student library orientation differ from undergraduate library orientations?

4.)  How would the issue of distance learning be addressed in library orientations and information literacy skill instruction?

Overcoming barriers to graduate students seeking reference librarian assistance

1.)  What causes students to have library anxiety?

2.)  How can students overcome anxiety in seeking librarian assistance? What tools do they need for this? (Anxiety-Expectation Mediation)

3.)  Is there a connection between information literacy skills and library anxiety? Do individuals who experience library anxiety have high or low literary and research skills?

4.)  How can incoming graduate students be educated about literary and research skills when they are ignorant of their ignorance? (Competency Theory)


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