Faculty Perspectives on Undergraduate Research Skills: Nine Core Skills for Research Success

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From: Reference & User Services Quarterly(Vol. 59, Issue 2)
Publisher: American Library Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,438 words
Lexile Measure: 1550L

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In an effort to improve information literacy initiatives at Texas Christian University, we sought to understand faculty members' expectations and perceptions of undergraduate student research skills. We conducted three faculty focus groups (n=21) and an online survey (n=100) of faculty members. This study reveals a set of nine core research skills that faculty members expect students to possess. The study compares faculty members' expectations against their perceptions of student capability for each of these nine core skills. Furthermore, this study examines who (librarians, faculty, or both) should have responsibility for teaching which research skills. These findings will inform the library's information literacy initiatives, as well as have a strong influence on the library's marketing and reference services.

Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth is a private university with a total current full-time enrollment of 10,782 and an undergraduate fulltime enrollment of 9,261. There are 1,220 to 2,300 undergraduates each in Business, Communication, Liberal Arts, Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, and Science and Engineering. Fine Arts and Education have smaller enrollments. (1) As librarians at TCU, we wanted to learn more from the faculty to better understand which research skills they perceive to be most important for undergraduate students to possess and further understand their perceptions of students' aptitudes related to those skills. This study will inform our information literacy programming and may open up collaborations with faculty members as we identify new approaches to improve undergraduate research skills.

The term information literacy (IL) was coined by Paul Zurkowski in 1974. (2) Since that time, IL has increasingly been a staple component of academic libraries. Its emphasis has evolved and broadened over the years from focusing on basic skills, such as finding information, to including concepts like topic selection, evaluating sources, and understanding ethical use of information.

The methods of instruction have also evolved over the years and can vary depending on the situation. Librarians have used a plethora of methods, including but not limited to one-shot instruction sessions, library tours, scavenger hunts, and being embedded into course management systems (CMS). Regardless of the method, it can be difficult for librarians to fully understand how well students learn and practice research skills and how their competency compares to faculty expectations. Librarians sometimes have discussions with faculty members about assignments or gaps in research skills; however, these discussions are often quick, happen via e-mail, and only scratch the surface of what the faculty members believe is missing in their students' skillsets.


Academic librarians have long been interested in the definition and dimensions of information literacy. In 2000, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) published the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, which defined IL as the ability to recognize when information is needed and then find, evaluate, and use information effectively. (3) In 2016, the ACRL adopted the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, which recognized that in a rapidly changing information and educational environment, the concept of IL had become a more complex, interconnected...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A619403189