My dissertation research will be presented at AOIR’s annual conference this week in Gothenburg, Sweden. Below is the abstract and presentation.
Abstract: In university settings, students are increasingly required to conduct online research to complete course-related assignments, yet often receive little instruction in the skills necessary to proficiently locate, evaluate, and use the information they find. By comparing the processes of 150 graduate and undergraduate students during a 50-minute course-related Internet research and writing task, this study examined the roles of prior knowledge and cognitive processing in digital literacy practice. Framed within an expert-novice comparative design, this research combined qualitative and quantitative measures including questionnaire, behavioral analysis (log file data), and content analysis (search terms, URLs, and essays). Outcomes were measured by demonstration of synthesis, comprehension, and cohesion in students’ resulting essays. Results show that students who bring greater academic experience to a course-related Internet research task are more likely to succeed than those with technical expertise alone. Analysis of students’ cognitive processes show that deliberate practice afforded through years of schooling contributes to digital literacy more significantly than short-term instruction. The findings of this study challenge the assumption that ease of access to information afforded by the Internet equals skill in using information.