Understanding how Undergraduates Indentify and Gather Sources for Senior Theses in Modern Languages
Subjectsundergraduate research; information seeking; strategies; modern languages; Senior Thesis; capstone
Many undergraduate colleges and universities require a senior thesis, and many college libraries offer instruction and individual assistance to students in the process of identifying and gathering source materials for their thesis topic. It is not clear, however, that more than the most basic research has been done concerning the information seeking behaviors of undergraduate students for their senior theses, especially students looking for non-English resources to write a thesis in modern languages. How do students learn to identify and gather resources to write a research paper? Are they guided by previous experience from earlier courses, taught by their senior thesis advisor, or assisted by the college and librarians? Do they gravitate toward popular tools like Google to identify useful information, or do they prefer the more scholarly journals and books offered in databases or in library collections? Do they rely solely on searching, or do they also trace citations from other sources or ask for human help from friends, instructors or librarians? If colleges and their libraries are to provide services to assist students in developing effective research skills, they must first understand students’ information retrieval behaviors. This study utilizes qualitative research methodologies to document and understand the information seeking techniques of various students working on senior theses in foreign languages at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Both observation and interview techniques were used, with the majority of the data coming from interviews with seniors in the process of working on their senior thesis in modern languages.
This paper presents an original qualitative study of undergraduate seniors majoring in modern languages and explores how they identified the sources they needed to support their senior capstone project.
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