All 4 entries tagged Psychology

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December 06, 2005

Reading lists, searching aptitudes and the Psychology department

Writing about web page

And so we have some results again. Iíve just finished writing up the Psychology reading list study we conducted over the past couple of months. Iíd love to say we found some shocking results, but it seems what weíve found pretty much supports some assumptions. Not that the timeís been wasted, oh no, because now we have comparative evidence from this year and last yearís cohort of students.

Thereís a full report available for library staff on the Library StaffWeb area as per usual, and Iíve just placed the executive summary on our main web area (follow the link above). If anyone would like to see the full report, then please do get in touch.

In terms of findings though what we discovered can be broken down into two areas: Students and reading lists, and students and searching. In terms of reading lists is does seem that students value their lists, and consider them very authoritative sources of guidance, which is good. However, they do seem to continue to focus only on reading what will get them through examinations and assessments Ė the proportion of students in this study who were willing to use the reading list to read around the subject (as it were) and engage with the wider scholastic realm was very few (less than 10%). This is certainly backed up by the work we did with Politics last year, where in interviews students said much the same. Is this due to time problems, competing demands or a lack of will? I donít know for sure Ė certainly this research doesnít delve into that area, though I might guess itís a mix of all there.

I know this is a real concern for academics, who would dearly love their students to take their subject to heart and become the academics and researchers of tomorrow Ė not exam passing, qualification obtaining work units. But thatís not really something the RIU can resolve Ė we can only point out what weíve found and perhaps suggest ways to assist in supporting any change to the mind set. Itís up to the academics to do something.

In terms of searching skills it does rather seem that students feel confident with knowing where to search and can use some good standard searching. They donít however; appear to be confident in using logical/Boolean searching and other such tools. Now this might well mean theyíre missing out on a lot of very interesting and relevant articles and resources. This is an area the library staff will be able to help out with training, mentioning and support.

Interestingly though from this study it does rather appear that students do not seek out the help or guidance of the academic nor library staff when it comes to deciding if articles or books they have found themselves are useful or accurate. They rely heavily on it either being blessed by appearing on the reading list or available in the Library. Letís just hope the science team here only ever purchase good books for psychology

December 02, 2005

Psychology survey results (and continuing network problems)

Our work server continues to splutter and die at the most inconvenient times which really isn't helping make the process of analysing and writing up the results of my current psychology investigation any easier.

However, there are some early results that I thought I'd share. The project (as I'm sure avid readers of this blog will remember) is the second phase of an investigation into psychology students and their perceptions, needs and requirements as they pertain to their directed reading list. We were comparing some of the attitudes that last year's cohort showed, but also investigating some new areas dealing with the student self-perceptions of their information literacy aptitudes.

What seems to be coming out is to a degree not that surprising. For a start it seems the students are largely happy with their ability to locate information outside of the reading list using the library catalogue, Google and PsychInfo (in that order), but as ever are struggling to find enough books. Whether that's books on the reading list or appropriate books in general is not clear unfortunately – and a question for another day.

However, what is interesting (certainly in terms of encouraging engagement with the research led collections here at Warwick) is the degree to which students have switched to considering journal articles as of greater value. Last time only 16.2% of our sample considered journal articles to be the most valuable reading list items. This time it has rocketed to 28.8% of the sample. Ok, books are still winding the day overall, but their market share has been slashed. To a fair degree this says that 2nd year psych students are happy to engage with journals – which from a library point of view supports the notion that reading lists containing more journal articles are valued by the students, and thanks to our extensive ejournal collections materials that we can make more readily available (than the book collections) to all.

Naturally, this is just one department and indeed two cohorts of students and further study would be needed to discover if this perception was true in more faculties/depts – but it is an interesting start. What the dept decides to do with the final report (out early next week) and the library though is in the purview of senior management, and not something for this humble researcher to dictate!

November 18, 2005

I love psychologists!

Not literally – as I think my wife would be that impressed! I refer to the psychologists I've been working with this morning as part of the 2nd phase of a project with Martin Skinner's 2nd year social psychology students. We've been looking at reading lists, studentsí perceptions & reactions, as well as dipping into their confidence with searching skills.

1stly Martin's level of co-operation and facilitation of my work has been pretty much second to none. Not only does he let me pop into his lecture today at the start to hand out questionnaires, he enthuses about what we're doing and made his students fill them in whilst I waited. He is a star! I think heís going to become the model level of co-operation we expect from academics when we do this sort of work Ė if they want it to be successful and representative.

2ndly the students were great as they co-operated and dutifully filled the questions in. Ok this time there was no incentive (thanks to a debatable policy on the matter in house) just working for the greater good. However, without the willingness of the students to participate I'd have no data to work on.

I know I used to be a Psychology subject specialist at the Uni of York and I'm probably biased, but they remain just about my favourite department and student body to work with. Wonder if they need an on-site library & information specialist for reasonable pay?

If you're a second year undergaduate psychology student and wanted to take part in this project survey - drop me an email or pop into the RIU office on the third floor and pick up a survey form. Likewise if you've filled one in and had a comment you forgot to add to the sheet, please do get in touch - your opinions are always welcomed!

It made a nice break from reading list analysis I can certainly say too! And this afternoon interviews in the Grid – joy! :)

October 26, 2005

Reading Lists: The Do it yourself way!

Just been over to sit in on a very interesting 2nd year Psychology seminar, where the students were asked for one week to go away and build their own reading lists in a particular area (attitude change). This is all part of our on-going work with Psychology, looking at student reactions to alternatives to the "old-fashioned directed reading list" style.

Was very interesting hearing the resources they'd used, criteria for selecting the best items, not to mention the ways in which they'd put their group lists together. Bit of a shame not much mention was made of HOW they found the items beyond the mention of the occasional database, website or (good heavens) the Library catalogue. Not much on any problems encountered and which resources were the best (my impression was that it was a range – which is good, but it wasn't explicit in the talks).

Still, a bit thanks to Martin Skinner for inviting us along and the results will certainly be fed into the next bit of surveying research we'll be conducting later on this term – we just have to see what inducements we'll be allowed to be used by "them downstairs".

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