Do your students know how to research? S4 Survey reveals student information skills at UofL

By Anita Riley Hall

When your students arrive at UofL, what types of information skills have they already learned? And what skills are they learning while they’re here? These are among the questions the University Libraries sought to answer by participating in the campus-wide Student Support Services Survey (S4) in November 2020. Distributed to all students by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, the S4 Survey asked about our students’ information skills, how and where they learned those skills, and when they are being asked to use them.

As a baseline, we wanted to know how UofL students are using our libraries – do they use the Libraries at all? If so, do they come to the actual building, use the Libraries’ website and other online resources, or a mixture of both?

We were pleased to see that overall, only 11% of students reported that they never use the libraries. Most students reported using the libraries both in-person and online. Undergraduate and graduate students both reported similar usage levels, although the groups used the libraries in different ways. There were a few groups who we discovered aren’t using the libraries as much – in particular, online students and part-time students. We’ll be working hard to improve our outreach to these groups, but if you know that you have these types of students in class, it may be helpful to specifically refer them to library resources when appropriate.

I have used the University Libraries…In-Person OnlyOnline OnlyBoth Online and In-PersonNever
All Responses23%20%46%11%
Undergraduates28%14%46%11%
Graduates9%35%46%10%
Online Program4%58%18%20%
Part-Time Students22%33%28%17%

The Libraries asked students to indicate when in their academic career they had been asked to cite certain types of resources, whether before college, in their Cardinal Core classes, or in their major classes. For each type of resource, about a quarter of students reported that they had been asked to cite these types of materials in assignments before college. The most frequently cited resource types before college were non-text sources (such as audio, images, maps, and data) and news or web sources.

What does this mean for faculty? Don’t assume that your students have these skills! Especially for freshmen or sophomores, it is likely that this is the first time they are being asked to cite any type of research, particularly from scholarly or peer-reviewed sources.

I have been asked to complete an assignment or paper that asked me to find and cite…Before CollegeIn at least one of my Cardinal Core classesIn the majority of my Cardinal Core classesIn at least one of my Major classesIn the majority of my Major classes
Sources other than your textbook23.77%18.24%15.72%19.25%23.02%
News or web sources27.31%19.06%14.65%20.48%18.49%
Scholarly or peer-reviewed sources23.24%18.08%15.78%17.93%24.96%
Primary sources (such as archival materials)25.98%20.26%13.73%20.92%19.12%
Non-text sources (such as audio, images, maps, or data)28.93%22.00%11.00%22.00%16.07%

We also asked students who taught them various information skills – and whether they were ever formally taught these skills at all. For each skill that we asked about, the most common person who taught students that skill was you – teachers or professors. Does this feel like a lot of pressure? Our Research and Instruction Department (RAI) at Ekstrom Library as well as librarians at each campus library are available to either teach library instruction sessions for your class, create online learning modules that you can incorporate in Blackboard, or just give advice on how you can approach these topics.

Please indicate who taught you each of the following skills:Self-taught or never formally learnedLearned from a friend or family memberLearned from a teacher or professorLearned from a librarian outside of UofLLearned from a UofL Librarian
Locate books or other physical materials needed for an assignment34.31%7.41%35.00%12.76%10.52%
Locate scholarly, peer-reviewed articles when required for an assignment24.70%5.91%46.96%10.43%12.00%
Develop a research topic for an assignment29.64%6.07%52.50%6.61%5.18%
Cite sources appropriately when required for an assignment26.46%5.82%54.14%7.58%6.00%
Evaluate the trustworthiness of news and other web resources32.69%7.21%46.05%7.73%6.33%

Would you like to learn more about our S4 data, or dive deeper on a particular topic? Contact Anita Hall, Assessment & Analytics Librarian, at anita.hall@louisville.edu. We also care about faculty members’ own experiences using the Libraries. Be on the lookout for our Libraries Benchmark Survey later this month (late March 2021) to provide feedback on how you experience our spaces, services, and collections and let us know how we can serve you better!