Undergraduate Information Seeking Behavior, E-Reference and Information Literacy in the Social Sciences

Undergraduate Information Seeking Behavior, E-Reference and Information Literacy in the Social Sciences

Jason B. Phillips (New York University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-308-9.ch008

Abstract

As we consider the potential impact of e-reference, librarians should keep in mind another important concern that has received much attention in recent years, namely information literacy. The composition and differential usage of specialized indexes in the social sciences – resources that are not necessarily designed for undergraduate research – and of aggregated interdisciplinary databases present challenges to achieving information literacy. Users have e-reference tools at their disposal to help them navigate information found in such resources, but it is a classic problem of reference and now e-reference that these resources are underutilized. Interviews conducted with twelve undergraduates at New York University form the basis for a case study which is used to illuminate the issues discussed herein.
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Specialized Indexes And Aggregated Interdisciplinary Databases

Teaching faculty want their students to use library resources. They are also likely to want their students to use many of the same resources that they utilize in their own research. Depending on how particular researchers go about their work, that can sometimes lead to the myopic use of library resources. Among databases with scholarly content, resources such as JSTOR and Project Muse are most widely known (Harley et. al. 2006). Although JSTOR was not originally intended to be used as a source of information for undergraduate instruction and research (Guthrie, Kirchhoff and Tapp 2003), its utility to a wide range of users in many types of institutions became clear over the course of its development (Schonfeld 2003, 2005).

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