Revolution Lullabye

February 4, 2013

JISC and the British Library, Researchers of Tomorrow

JISC and the British Library. Researchers of Tomorrow: TheResearch Behaviour of Generation Y Doctoral Students.  Report.  28 June 2012.  Print.

JISC, a British thinktank that studies digital technologies, and the British Library conducted a three-year study of the research behaviors of “Generation Y” British doctoral students in order to discover how doctoral students find information, conduct research, and use emerging technologies in their research processes.  The Generation Y students they targetted were born between 1982-1994 and did not grow up using digital technologies (in other words, they are not digital natives.)

The study, which involved three annual surveys of a total of 17,000 doctoral students and a longitudinal study of 60 doctoral students, found that this generation of doctoral students relied less on primary sources and materials when conducting their research and turned most often to e-journals (rather than printed sources) to find information and texts.  Although they have been introduced to different kinds of Web 2.0 and digital technologies that could augment their research process, the study found that most Generation Y doctoral students only adopted technologies that fit into their already-established research habits. These students were often unsure of the validity and the usefulness of open access cites, probably due to uncertainty about the credibility of online publication venues and the suspicion of sharing (or fear of being scooped) in many academic fields.  Finally, the research study found that students don’t find one-size-fits-all research or technology workshops useful for their own research process; the doctoral students in the study noted that a more informal, peer-led, and tailored approach to research strategies would be more effective.

The purpose of the study is to shed light on the research habits of this generation of doctoral students.   The findings, both JISC and the British Library hope, will help librarians and those in higher education better prepare and assist doctoral students for 21st century digital research.

Notable Notes

huge longitudinal study that focuses on students’ research and information-finding habits.

the organization of the report:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Setting the scene
  • Chapter 3: Finding and using research resources
  • Chapter 4: Take-up of technology and applications
  • Chapter 5: Collaborating, sharing, and disseminating research
  • Chapter 6: Institutional services and facilities to support research
  • Chapter 7: Conclusions

surveys tried to determine what are their attitudes toward research and what are the key constraints/drivers to their research process (10)

surveyed students from 72 institutions of higher education.

two key findings: “Only Google commands a similarily important role [the other being e-journals] as an information source across all subject disciplines” and “Generation Y doctoral students seem rarely to be aware of the actual publisher or name of the e-information source, as they rely on their library’s own interface or Google to locate and access resources” (19).

Quotable Quotes

“The study found that Generation Y doctoral students are sophisticated information-seekers and users of complex information sources. They are not dazzled by technology and are acutely aware of critical issues such as authority and authenticity in research and evidence gathering” (5).

“If they cannot get hold of an e-journal article, almost half the Generation Y doctoral students said they will make do with the abstract.  Fewer older students inclined to do this” (6)

“There is widespread lack of understanding and uncertainty about open access and self-archived resources” (6) – are students given enough support and guidance to navigate resources on and off line?

“Of the total survey sample, 30% used Google or Google Scholar as their main source to find the research information they sought.” (23)

“Evidence from the cohort suggested a tendency among doctoral students to download and store much more than they ever read in detail. Many downloaded things or viewed them online and then if they looked interesting they would commonly print them out to read them. Many cohort members commented on how they dislike reading (as opposed to scanning) on screen.” (23)



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