The Ohio State University and OCLC researchers to study how people
use electronic information resources
Researchers at The Ohio State University and OCLC are conducting
a new study to find out how and why students and faculty members
use electronic information sources to do research and solve problems.
The $1 million project is a collaboration between Ohio State and
OCLC. The two-year study will run through Dec. 31, 2005. The project
is partially funded with a $480,543 grant from the Institute of
Museum and Library Services. The remainder of the funding will come
from Ohio State and OCLC.
The project is important because, while researchers know a lot
about people's use of electronic resources, many important questions
remain unanswered, said Brenda Dervin, a Professor of Communication
at Ohio State and principal investigator for the project.
We know a lot about who is using these electronic resources,
when they are using them and where, she said. But there
is just a dabbling of research on the hows and whys. We want to
know how people are choosing their electronic resources, why they
are choosing some resources over others, and how they are fitting
them into their personal and professional lives.
Lynn Silipigni Connaway, OCLC Consulting Research Scientist, and
Chandra Prabha, OCLC Senior Research Scientist, are serving as co-investigators.
In the long-run, this project can help answer questions that will
benefit all users of electronic research resources, such as the
Internet and e-books.
Our investigations will create a more complete and descriptive
portrait of college and university information users, one which
we think will help us design useful information services to better
meet user needs, said Dr. Connaway.
The researchers will start the study with 400 undergraduates, graduate
students and faculty members at 44 central Ohio colleges and universities.
All participants will be first interviewed online and by phone.
In another phase, 192 of these participants will take part in focus
groups. Finally, 32 of the participants will be observed while they
use electronic resources.
Dr. Dervin said the researchers are interested in finding out how
students and faculty use information sources not only for university-related
reasonssuch as writing a paper or preparing for classbut
also for personal reasons.
The interviews, focus groups and field observations will aim to
find answers for a variety of questions, such as how people viewed
their information needs for a particular problem, what they were
trying to accomplish, how they tried to meet their goals, and how
system features helped and hindered their ability to meet their
For more on the project, visit the OCLC
Research Web site.