PIL report finds research skills lacking in college freshmen

In their latest research study, How Freshmen Conduct Course Research Once They Enter College, released earlier this week, Project Information Literacy (PIL) found a striking disparity between the Google-centric search skills that many first-term freshmen brought from high school and the competencies they needed to meet the far higher research expectations in college.

Moreover, they found freshmen studied had gaping holes in their understanding of how libraries—and the vast array of digital resources academic libraries provided—could best meet their needs, especially when it came to sifting out the trusted information they wanted.

The report comes from PIL's seventh study in a series of ongoing research about college students. In this study, they investigated the challenges today's freshmen face, and the information-seeking strategies they develop, use, and adapt as they make the transition from high school to college and begin to complete college research assignments.

Findings are based on a comparative analysis of library resources in 30 US high schools and 6 colleges and universities; interviews with 35 first-term freshmen from 6 colleges and universities, and an online survey with 1,941 US high school and college student respondents.

An excellent summary of how the study is relevant to academic librarians can be found in Karen Schneider's Free Range Librarian blog post entitled: "Project Info Lit and the 'Ginormous' Problem."

PIL's ongoing research study is founded by Alison Head and Michael Eisenberg. Head is the director of PIL, a Research Scientist in the iSchool, and a Faculty Associate at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Eisenberg is a Professor and Dean Emeritus of the iSchool.