Current Issue Coffee Club: September 2010 Archives

Coffee Club thoughts on PIL

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Some interesting themes from the Project Information Literacy Progress Report:

Finding Context

Students stress the importance of being able to find different kinds of context for their research and what a difficult process this can be for them.   The types of context reported by students were identified as: 1) big picture, 2) language, 3) situational, and 4) information gathering.  I think that we do a pretty good job of putting information in subject context on our website, but we should consider how else we could contextualize tools and information.  How can we do a better job of contextualizing research tools, not only by subject, but also by the type of information needed (e.g. background information or "big picture", primary sources, scholarly articles)?



 7 out of 10 college students interviewed went to Wikipedia first for course-related research even though they were aware that faculty do not want them to use it as a resource (many had been warned by their professor not to use it at all) and just did not cite Wikipedia as a source in their papers.  I am wondering whether and how we talk about Wikipedia in our instruction...Do you talk about use of Wikipedia?  If so, do you dissuade students from using it, encourage it, or say to use it with caution?

Coffee Club thoughts on PIL

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In no coherent manner here are some of the thoughts and ideas that jumped out at me:pil.jpg

How Handouts for Research Assignments Guide Today's College students:

  • How does or does not the assignment calculator provide a mechanism to "improve'" some parts of the problems with research handouts?
  • The average handout was 960 words or 3.84 pages
  • 6 out of 10 consulting the library's shelves (not those online)
  • 54% required students find their own topics--what tools can we develop that can help this?
  • "Economics professors, for example, define research entirely differently from civil engineering professors, anthropology professors or Shakespearean scholars." [how can we help student through this?]
  • 14% of handouts steered students toward starting off with a library database (JSTOR was most popular)
  • "Large majority of instructors we interviewed believed that students understood that plagiarism was unethical and should not be done, but not the finer details, especially as they related to the paper they were writing as part of their course work."
  • Based on their earlier work--they develop 4 "context needs of the undergraduate research process"
    • Big Picture
    • Language
    • Situational
    • Information Gathering
  • The handouts had higher levels of "situational" and less on "information gathering"
  • "Most students lack a seminal understanding about what conducting research means as a form of intellectual inquiry and discovery and the large majority of handouts we analyzed did not provide much context that would help."
  • Do efforts like the Library Faculty Seminar ( improve this?

The Information Literacy Collaborative invites you to the next Current Issues Coffee Club:

Wednesday, September 29, 3:30 to 4:30
Room 120 Andersen Library New Location: 308 Andersen
Coffee and treats provided

Topic: The University of Minnesota Libraries have participated in two rounds of research being conducted by Project Information Literacy. Learn more about our involvement and discuss the findings based on their two most recent research reports.

"Project Information Literacy (PIL) is ongoing research project, based in the University of Washington's Information School. Our goal is to understand how early adults conceptualize and operationalize research activities for course work and "everyday life" use and especially how they resolve issues of credibility, authority, relevance, and currency in the digital age."


1.) "Finding Context: What Today's College Student Say about Conducting Research in the Digital Age", Alison J. Head and Michael B. Eisenberg, Project Information Literacy Progress Report, University of Washington's Information School, February 4, 2009 (

2.) Introduction and Major Findings Section, pp. 2-3
"Assigning Inquiry: How Handouts for Research Assignments Guide Today's College Students," Alison J. Head and Michael B. Eisenberg, Project Information Literacy Progress Report, University of Washington's Information School, July 13, 2010 (

3.) OR watch some of their short videos with findings on YouTube:

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This page is an archive of entries in the Current Issue Coffee Club category from September 2010.

Current Issue Coffee Club: April 2010 is the previous archive.

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