ON THE DUBLIN CORE FRONT
Researching the research process
Information-seeking behavior, Summon, and
Magill Library, Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania, USA
Purpose – This paper seeks to describe undergraduate research habits, as identiﬁed through a study
at Saint Mary’s College of California.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper focuses on Summon, a new federated search tool
produced by Serials Solutions.
Findings – The paper suggests that use of library-supplied databases may be increasing due to the
ubiquity of full-text, and the ease with which it can be associated with online indexes.
Originality/value – The paper describes opposition to the Google Books settlement.
Keywords Research, Serials, Information retrieval
Paper type Viewpoint
My institution recently completed surveying students about their information seeking
habits. Like every other academic library, we want to better understand how
undergraduates use and value our services, and moreover, how satisﬁed they are with
them. We administered the same survey two years ago. Some of what we learned in
this latest go-around was surprising, particularly as it relates to library databases, use
of which has climbed signiﬁcantly since 2007. Given the popularity of Google’s Scholar
and Book Search, I assumed our undergrads would claim to use library-supplied
databases less often. Our students have also increased their use of computer labs,
which is particularly useful information given the University of Virginia’s decision to
begin shutting down its labs.
Recently I came across “How do humanities and social science majors conduct
course-related research?” (Head, 2007), which offers a few explanations as to why use
of library-supplied databases is on the rise at my institution. According to the study
conducted at Saint Mary’s College of California from January through May 2007,
humanities and social science majors studying there turned ﬁrst to their textbook or
assigned readings from class in beginning a research assignment. The next most
popular starting point for these students was licensed resources accessed through the
library’s website. This was followed by using a search engine such as Google or
Yahoo!. Perhaps the increased use of databases is attributed to the full-text sources
now available through such databases, or the ease with which one can navigate from a
database to an online journal article via OpenURL tools.
Studies such as the one conducted at Saint Mary’s College and other institutions,
perhaps most famously the University of Rochester (Foster and Gibbons, 2007), are
useful in providing objective evaluation of how students use and think about library
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received April 2009
Revised April 2009
Accepted April 2009
OCLC Systems & Services:
International digital library
Vol. 25 No. 3, 2009
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited