A study of undergraduate student uptake of library discovery tools

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

To better understand why users choose to use discovery tools, this research attempted to uncover the factors that lead to the uptake of discovery tools by first year undergraduate students, by examining themes suggested by the literature, such as: the influence of the librarian, impact of web search engines on student search behaviour, and a student’s discipline of study. An explanatory sequential mixed methods approach within a pragmatic philosophical framework was adopted to achieve this aim, with the University of South Australia and RMIT University selected as research sites to investigate the phenomenon. Separate questionnaires were established for the students and librarians at each university that resulted in 184 student responses and 51 librarian responses. Of this pool of participants, 16 students participated in an interview and think-aloud search session, and 16 librarians were interviewed. The questionnaire data was analysed by means of logistic regression analysis.

The results of this research revealed students were more likely to use discovery tools for locating information for their assignments when these students used the catalogue, consulted their lecture notes, or had a requirement for a specific type of information, such as online book chapters. These results are a unique contribution to the literature on discovery tools, with further contributions to the literature in relation to Google and librarians. No evidence was found to support the notion that use of Google impacts the use of discovery among the participating students. Google was the web search engine of choice among these first year undergraduate students at the University of South Australia and RMIT University, yet this did not directly impact their decision to use discovery as the students chose to use both. Furthermore, contrary to the opinion expressed in the literature regarding potential for negative implications of ambivalent or negative attitude of librarians towards discovery, no evidence was found to support this assertion. The majority of the librarians involved in this research had a mixed opinion of discovery tools yet this did not discourage them from recommending use of discovery to students or even using it themselves. Furthermore, some evidence, albeit quite limited, was found that embedding a librarian into the course structure facilitated discovery uptake and that students seeking librarian assistance resulted in student uptake.

This research also found evidence relating to student information seeking behaviour that indicated convenience is a consideration, students use more than one resource, and human sources are a source of information and form part of student information seeking. The students involved in this study demonstrated an awareness of, and discernment, in considering different formats and types of information when seeking information. Students were able to reveal specific reasons for their use of a particular resource based on the type of information required, such as books and eBooks which some students search for in the discovery tool and others in Google Scholar.

Implications of this study are clear: libraries should no longer feel the need to compete with Google, as discovery tools and other library resources, such as the catalogue, continue to be utilised. They are simply used for different purposes. In order for discovery tools to be fully utilised, however, librarians need to ensure that their use is embedded in the students’ courses.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Hider, Philip, Principal Supervisor
  • Qayyum, Asim, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2020

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