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Students Prefer Print for Serious Academic Reading – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education


Library booksStudents Prefer Print for Serious Academic Reading – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This article in The Chronicle summarizes this article to be published in the September 2014 issue of College & Research Libraries (excuse me – 2014? Really?  I’m glad they put their pre-prints online early).  This qualitative study asked students to record their use of resources that they used for their classes in a 12-day diary, supplemented by pre- and post-diary interviews.

The results support previous qualitative studies on reading by college students – essentially, students are OK with reading short or light items online or electronically; but for close, long or intense reading, they prefer print.  I’m that way – that’s why I print out articles to read them carefully.  The students also mentioned what the authors describe as “responsive reading” with print – engaging with the text – taking notes, highlighting, etc.

I’m only just now starting to do this with PDFs.  But there is still issues with that.  For instance, I use RefWorks to store full-text articles for later reference.  However, when I download the stored copy, it is just that – a copy.  If I make changes, such as highlighting, I have to upload that copy back into RW.  This is just one more obstacle to using digital articles for close reading.

Sara Gossman, who wrote the review in The Chronicle, also pointed out something very interesting – how the students view themselves.

Perhaps most notably, many of the study participants said they saw themselves as belonging to the generation before the first truly digital generation. When she was in high school, one 21-year-old student said, “everybody was still using textbooks, and it was only when I got to college that it started to change more and more.” Another participant said that perhaps later generations would be more comfortable using digital textbooks and e-readers.

The author of the study, Nancy Foasberg from Queens College, notes that most of the efforts to extend the use of electronic textbooks comes from above (faculty, college administrators) or outside (politicians) hoping to save money.  They are not asking the students – who are currently eschewing e-texts.  However, with the push for e-texts in the lower education, Ms. Foasberg suggests that later generations may be more accustomed to using digital texts.  This is a trend that would be very interesting to track.

BTW – I was really impressed with the quality of this, um, qualitative study.  It is based on grounded theory on reading, the method was justifiable and sound, the author included information on how to improve the diary method, the quotes from the interviews provided were informative (even providing descriptions of physical movements to inform the reader), and the conclusions were insightful.

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This entry was posted on July 27, 2013 by in Academic Libraries, Information Resources, LIS Research and tagged .
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