Within the field of writing studies, much scholarship productively attends to how people in academic environments, especially students, use online information for composing (e.g.,
DeVoss & Rosati, 2002; Johnson-Eilola, 2004;
Yancey, 2004). Our disciplinary research, however, has focused little attention on the practices that student researchers use to find such information. With a few exceptions, scholars in writing studies generally have not addressed online search practices in their research. In a 2002 article published in Computers and Composition,
Michelle Sidler does provide a discussion of students' search practices associated with online databases, specifically ProQuest, but the focus of her work is to develop a new evaluative framework for assessing online documents in these databases rather than to analyze students' search practices in retrieving sources.
Also in Computers and Composition, Vicki Tolar Burton and Scott A. Chadwick (2000) discuss results of a quantitative study of student researchers' use of library and Internet sources. While they address students' search practices in online spaces, their primary concern, like Sidler's, is the evaluation of online sources, specifically the criteria students use to determine which outside sources to use for their research.
Eva-Maria Jakobs and Dagmar A. Knorr (1996) present empirical studies of the processes through which writers in academia search for and retrieve information. Unfortunately, these studies are from 1992-93 and 1993-94, before widespread popularity and use of the Web for research purposes. Thus, although they include electronic databases among the sources of information retrieval they examine, their work does not provide an adequate basis for understanding current online research practices.
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