Undergraduate Students Seek Librarian Assistance Only After They Have Searched Independently Without Success


  • Elaine Sullo The George Washington University




A Review of: Vinyard, M., Mullally, C., & Colvin, J.B. (2017). Why do students seek help in an age of DIY? Using a qualitative approach to look beyond statistics. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 56(4), 257-267. http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.56.4.257


Objective – To explore how undergraduate students look for information and the reasons these students seek assistance from a librarian.

Design – Qualitative research.

Setting – A university in Southern California.

Subjects – 10 students were interviewed: 1 freshman, 1 sophomore, 5 juniors, and 3 seniors.

Methods – Students who met with a librarian for longer than 20 minutes were invited to participate in the study, and interviews were conducted within six weeks of this interaction. Semi-structured interviews were scheduled for one hour blocks and were audio-recorded and transcribed afterward. Interview data was analyzed using applied thematic analysis. The researchers used NVivo to assist with the process of coding data.

Main Results – Once all transcripts were coded, the researchers identified the following six themes related to how students look for information and the reasons they asked for assistance: how students research, personal perceptions of research skills, assumptions (students’ misperceptions about library services), motivation for asking for help, path to the librarian (how students contacted librarians and their reason for selecting a particular librarian), and experience working with a librarian.

Conclusion – Overall, the research results demonstrate that students prefer to conduct research independently but will consult a librarian if they are not able to find what they need, if they find the research question especially challenging, or if they have spent an unreasonable amount of time conducting research. In-class library instruction, along with professor referrals are the most effective methods for encouraging students to seek out library assistance.


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Author Biography

Elaine Sullo, The George Washington University

Coordinator, Information and Instructional Services




How to Cite

Sullo, E. (2018). Undergraduate Students Seek Librarian Assistance Only After They Have Searched Independently Without Success. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 13(1), 27–29. https://doi.org/10.18438/eblip29379



Evidence Summaries