Over the last few weeks I’ve made several presentations summarizing a research study I recently completed comparing undergraduate students’ use of web-scale “discovery” tools (e.g. Ebsco Discovery Service, Serials Solutions’ Summon) on academic research assignments.  This research used a mixed methods qualitative/quantitative approach in which students were asked to locate resources that would use for a series of four research questions similar to ones they might be given for a course.  After they completed these tasks, we played back a screen-capture recording for them of their searches and conducted a qualitative interview about the processes they used to locate and evaluate the resources.

One of the main conclusions of this research is that students are outsourcing much of the evaluation process to the search tools themselves, and because of this the search algorithms that drive these tools are functioning to determine what resources students use.  Differences in resource use attributable to differences in the design of the discovery tools’ search algorithms could be directly observed in the data collected from students.

A full version of the peer-reviewed paper presenting this research is available from College and Research Libraries.  A video and the slides of a presentation I made at Bucknell University discussing this research follow below.
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