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googling undergraduates

Adrian, an undergraduate researcher, did not use Google as a way to find terms to use for library searches. Google was still the first step in her search--it is her homepage--but it led her to online resources other than the library. Notably, Adrian has never really used the library database at her school (except as part of specific class activities). She finds the library database "a little overwhelming" and "sterile." So, in her case, outside research tools serve to replace the library rather than to augment or work in conjunction with it. Instead of using the library resources, she has developed an extended range of resources for finding articles through both free and commercial web spaces, such as, which allows her to organize her searches, and, which allows her to search for a variety of articles from different kinds of publications. Both Adrian and Katie (another undergraduate) indicated that they found the library interface to be difficult and were not very confident about their abilities to find information in the library databases. Yet both were able to articulate a range of very specific and effective search strategies using Google and other online resources, as Katie illustrates in the audio clip below. (For a complete transcript of the interview with Katie, see the Words link or download the pdf transcript here.)

Figure 3. Katie discusses her discomfort with the library database

The two clips below offer this contrast clearly. In the first, Adrian attempts to articulate her reasons for not using the library portal, and in the second, she explains her practice of using to organize her searches. It is our stance that Adrian 's comments show clearly that lack of motivation is not a factor in her choice of outside resources--rather, she has simply found what she sees as more effective tools and feels better able to find and evaluate sources using these outside tools. While she herself admits that her lack of use of library resources may be a weakness in her search practices, she also feels that her established practices enable her to find and organize a wealth of useful information on a variety of subjects In the video (bottom link), Adrian exhibits the ability (and indeed expresses a preference for) creating keywords for sources that will allow her to return to her site and easily find materials that she has organized. This skill is similar to the skill of using keywords for library searches, but differs in that Adrian can attach specific kinds of keywords to sites that relate to her own research, and then store those links in an online location for later use. However, she see this skill as something she would use in the library, where the need to understand the way libraries attach and organize keywords seems complicated and intimidating to her (For a complete transcript of the interview with Adrian, see the Words link or download the pdf transcript here.) Interestingly, Derek (a graduate student) also made similar comments about his practices and his lack of familiarity with search skills necessary to negotiate the variety of different library databases. Thus, we contend that traditional attitudes towards students who do not use library resources, which insist that they lack motivation or are otherwise defective in their abilities, are unconvincing.

Figure 4. Adrian discusses her discomfort with the library databases


Figure 5. Watch the screen-capture video of Adrian using to store and organize research materials




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A Beginning
A Lament
A Challenge

Literature Review

A Crossroads
Research in Writing Studies
Research in Other Disciplines
Alternative Research

Methods & Methodology

Methodological Frameworks
Specific Methods

Findings: Multiple Tool Use

Everybody Loves Google. . .
Googling Graduate Student Style
Googling Undergraduates
. . . They Love Too
Amazon Remediated
Last Stop: Library
Libraries Remediated
Academic Resource Responses

Findings: Playing Online

Playing Researcher
Janine Plays
Adrian Plays
Academic Play

New Directions

Further Research