The Research Habits of Graduate Students and Faculty: Is There a Need for Reference Sources?

The Research Habits of Graduate Students and Faculty: Is There a Need for Reference Sources?

Miriam Matteson (Kent State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-308-9.ch005
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The work of faculty and graduate students is information intensive. These researchers make heavy use of particular types of resources to support their research, teaching, scholarly communication, and current awareness. They less frequently use traditional types of reference sources, however, raising questions of why that might be and what should be done about it. This chapter examines the research practices of graduate students and faculty to understand their information needs, their information seeking strategies and the information sources they use. It also looks more specifically at researchers’ uneven use of reference sources and discusses reasons why these practices exist. An argument is made that changes must be made to the types of reference sources available to researchers, and that academic librarians must change the way they promote these resources to their constituents.
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Both graduate students and faculty members are scholars in that they ingest, produce, and disseminate scholarship through research and teaching. Graduate students are often faculty members-in-training; thus these two user groups share many common characteristics in their information needs, seeking, and use. But there are also distinctions between the two user groups regarding their knowledge and expertise in their subject areas, and their familiarity with information sources in those areas. A direct comparison of the research habits of these two user groups is made somewhat difficult by the fact that researchers have not consistently asked the same research questions of each group, and that some research has focused exclusively on scholars in a particular academic discipline where other research has grouped sample populations across multiple disciplines. To be sure, differences exist across academic fields in terms of epistemology, scholarly communication patterns, and, to a lesser degree, the habits and preferences of the researchers. However, those differences are less relevant for the focus of this chapter; thus, the findings discussed here emphasize the similarities among researchers of different disciplines. A good amount of research about graduate students and faculty exists, and from that, we can begin to understand their research habits and their use of reference sources.

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