Back in February we wrote about the IRIS Project survey into Cambridge students’ use and knowledge of online resources. The results are now available as a pdf file: The Iris Project Report.
Prizes of an iPod Nano and two £25 Borders vouchers were offered as an incentive to enter the survey. In total 1,812 survey responses were received, an overall response rate of 10% of the 17,500 students at Cambridge. There was a significantly higher response from postgrads/clinical students (13.5%) compared with undergraduates (8.5%). 1,771 responses were usable for data analysis.
There was a separate survey for the libraries, which yielded 60 completed forms, an 80% response rate. These included 26 from college libraries, 30 from department and faculty libraries and 4 from the UL / dependent libraries.
After a quick skim through the 35-page document, generously peppered with charts, one point particularly stood out for me: that only 2% of students had asked a librarian for help with finding out about information resources! What could we do to improve this figure? All our staff are happy to help you with any aspect of resource discovery but suggestions for improvements are welcome either via this blog or email or even face to face.
There were ’embarassed’ mentions of Wikipedia: in a group focus discussion one student responded: “Everyone knows that everyone uses it but you just don’t say” and another: “In first year we were told ‘If you put anything about Wikipedia anywhere near an essay you are going to get a really low mark’”. Again, this may change—there are academics who actively defend and work to add to Wikipedia’s usefulness in their fields.
JSTOR was the most mentioned resource—primarily a repository of journal back issues which would be a superb resource if it were made open access to all. However, it is only one of many repositories of knowledge and we learn to widen our repertoire, as witnessed in this survey which shows that as students mature through University their knowledge and use of resources widens.
IRIS stands for Induction, Research and Information Skills. IRIS is a research project which forms part of the Arcadia Fellowship Programme, a three-year project funded by a generous grant from the Arcadia Foundation to Cambridge University Library. Visit the IRIS Project Blog and The Arcadia Project Blog (very good on Google and book scanning). A previous Arcadia project, well worth checking out—especially for undergraduates to widen their resource knowledge—is the science@cambridge portal. Let’s hope there will be one for the arts too.