Bridging the Gap: Understanding the Differing Research Expectations of First-Year Students and Professor


  • Meg Raven Mount Saint Vincent University



First-year students, research practices, information literacy


Objective: This study sought to better understand the research expectations of first-year students upon beginning university study, and how these expectations differed from those of their professors. Most academic librarians observe that the research expectations of these two groups differ considerably and being able to articulate where these differences are greatest may help us provided more focused instruction, and allow us to work more effectively with professors and student support services.

Methods: 317 first-year undergraduate students and 75 professors at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS were surveyed to determine what they each expected of first-year student research. Students were surveyed on the first day of term so as to best understand their research expectations as they transitioned from high school to university.

Results: The gulf between student and professor research expectations was found to be considerable, especially in areas such as time required for reading and research, and the resources necessary to do research. While students rated their preparedness for university as high, they also had high expectations related to their ability to use non-academic sources. Not unexpectedly, the majority of professors believed that students are not prepared to do university-level research, they do not take enough responsibility for their own learning, they should use more academic research sources, and read twice as much as students believe they should.

Conclusions: By better understanding differing research expectations, students can be guided very early in their studies about appropriate academic research practices, and librarians and professors can provide students with improved research instruction. Strategies for working with students, professors and the university community are discussed.


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Author Biography

Meg Raven, Mount Saint Vincent University

Coordinator of Reference & Instructional Services




How to Cite

Raven, M. (2012). Bridging the Gap: Understanding the Differing Research Expectations of First-Year Students and Professor. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 7(3), 4–31.



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