Monday, March 09, 2009

British to Study Research Habits of Generation Y

Last year, the British Library and Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) published a study that showed that students of the Google Generation were not as web-literate or search-expert as they were usually made out to be.

As a result, the British Library and JISC have commissioned a £90,000, three-year study into the research behaviour of Generation Y scholars (doctoral students). It will examine how these students search for and use information both online and offline and technologies they use to do so.

The article Educators study research habits of Generation Y by Archana Venkatraman, Information World Review has more details. The author notes:

According to Hutchings, the study’s findings could send a strong message to academics about how to adapt to the digital mindset: “The research will be useful for the academic community, libraries and committees such as JISC itself. By tracking the online research behaviour of this demographic, information providers will be better placed to adapt and cater to the digital natives of the Google generation.”

Obviously, librarians, educators, businesses, etc. are going to have to adapt to how members of this generation use information. We have all been doing it for years. However, I am not sure if catering is the best word to describe this. Information can be delivered to Gen Y in ways they like to access it and still require the person to think critically.

The article by Venkatraman ends ominously. University of Strathclyde professor Derek Law said,"We all more or less know the outcome: unless information providers can sum up their information in 140 characters on Twitter, they have lost this audience.”

OK, but what if important information can not be summed up in 140 characters? Must we give up and compress the message anyway? Is this the end of teaching critical thinking? Even though many students may only have a 140 character capacity, I think most only prefer this. They are capable are taking in larger amounts of information and critically analyzing when they need to. I look forward to seeing the eventual result of this British study.

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