Students and Federated Searching

Abe Korah, Erin Dorris Cassidy

Abstract


This study assessed student use of and satisfaction with the WebFeat federated search tool, which was implemented by the library at Sam Houston State University. Students voluntarily responded to an electronic survey, providing feedback on how often they conducted class research using the federated search tool, individual databases, and online search engines and how well each search tool satisfied their class research needs. The study found a high rate of federated search use but only moderate satisfaction; for most students, federated search did not replace individual databases and online search engines, which also saw frequent use for class assignments. Federated search use was highest among lower-level undergraduates, and both use and satisfaction declined as student classification rose. Classification—which can be seen as the amount of experience in an academic environment—played a larger role in federated search use and satisfaction than did age or subject area of study. Students have almost unlimited avenues through which to gather information for conducting research, both in libraries and online. Recent years have seen an increase in the quantity and popularity of free Web-based resources, such as Wikipedia. Regardless of the comparable quality of data, these tools present information in a simple, user-friendly way and require little formal knowledge of information organization and searching techniques. Such straightforward simplicity attracts many students, and academic libraries face challenges in capturing and keeping students’ attention to assist them in finding authoritative and appropriate research materials in the library.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.49n4.325

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