A study of students’ information searching strategies

Concerns have been expressed with respect to students’ ability to search for information using electronic search engines and databases. This research adopted a structured method comprising a combination of questionnaire surveys, an observational study and a ‘sense making’ interview to assess the information searching skills of a group of 14 students undertaking their final year dissertation studies on undergraduate programmes within the Department of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough University. The findings reveal that the participants encountered problems with each type of search engine used (Google, Metalib, the Library OPAC system, and individual databases) and lacked knowledge of how to use advanced search strategies. All the participants formulated queries using simple words or free text and there was no evidence of consideration of structured word searching using systematically selected keywords. The results indicate priority areas for additional tuition in information literacy.