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Ethnographic study of student research methods

Here is an interesting overview of the findings of a two-year, five-campus ethnographic study examining how students view and use their campus libraries. It seems students rarely ask librarians for help, even when they need it, and they need help. Very, very interesting findings! Must read.

  • What Students Don’t Know, by Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed (August 22, 2011).

    The ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) project — a series of studies conducted at Illinois Wesleyan, DePaul University, and Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois’s Chicago and Springfield campuses — was a meta-exercise for the librarians in practicing the sort of deep research they champion. Instead of relying on surveys, the libraries enlisted two anthropologists, along with their own staff members, to collect data using open-ended interviews and direct observation, among other methods.

    The goal was to generate data that, rather than being statistically significant but shallow, provided deep, subjective accounts of what students, librarians and professors think of the library and each other at those five institutions. The resulting papers are scheduled to be published by the American Library Association this fall, under the title: “Libraries and Student Culture: What We Now Know.”