Graduate Students Report Strong Acceptance and Loyal Usage of Google Scholar

Lisa Shen


Objective – To determine the frequency of graduate students’ Google Scholar usage, and the contributing factors to their adoption. The researchers also aimed to examine whether the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) is applicable to graduate students’ acceptance of Google Scholar.

Design – Web-based survey questionnaire.

Setting – The survey was conducted over the internet through email invitations.

Subjects – 1,114 graduate students enrolled at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota.

Methods – 9,998 graduate students were invited via email to participate in a study about their perceptions of Google Scholar in the fall of 2009. A follow-up email and a raffle of two $25 gift certificates were used to provide participation incentive.

The survey measurements, which consisted of 53 items in 15 questions, were based on modifications to the validated TAM using measurements adopted by other studies using the same instrument. Each item was scored using five-point scales ranging from 1 (“strongly disagree”) to 5 (“strongly agree”). Because the TAM model is based on direct user experience, only responses from those who have used Google Scholar in the past were included in the data analysis.

Main Results – The survey had a response rate of 11.4%, with 73% of the respondents reporting having used Google Scholar at least once before. However, only 45% of those who had used Google Scholar reported linking to full text articles through the customized library link “frequently or always.” On average, respondents found Google Scholar easy to use (M=4.09 out of 5) and access (M=3.86). They also perceived Google Scholar as a useful resource for their research (M=3.98), which enhanced their searching effectiveness (M=3.89). However, respondents were less enthusiastic when asked whether they often found what they were looking for using Google Scholar (M=3.33) or whether it had enough resources for their research (M=3.14). Nonetheless, most still felt they made the correct decision to use Google Scholar (M=3.94), even if their loyalty towards Google Scholar was limited (M=3.23).

The researcher categorized survey measurements into 9 TAM-based variables and performed regression analysis (all with p<0.001) to analyze the relationships. Overall, accessibility (β=0.32) and system quality (β=0.53) were significant determinants of respondents’ perceived ease of use of Google Scholar, while perceived ease of use (β=0.33) and comprehensiveness (β=0.53) were significant determinants of respondents’ perceived usefulness of Google Scholar. In turn, perceived usefulness (β=0.45), loyalty (β=0.38), and perceived ease of use (β=0.12) were the main factors contributing to respondents’ actual intention to use Google Scholar. Lastly, respondents’ loyalty towards Google Scholar was largely attributed to their satisfaction with the search engine (R²=0.532).

Conclusion – This study found several factors that strongly influence graduate students’ intention to use Google Scholar, including students’ perceived usefulness of Google Scholar, their sense of loyalty towards the search engine, and its perceived ease of use. Moreover, the findings also showed that TAM is an applicable model for explaining graduate students’ use of Google Scholar. These findings provide useful insights for librarians seeking to understand graduate students’ perception of Google Scholar and practical implications on how to best promote new information resources to graduate students.

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