First-Year Students’ Understanding of Research and Their Information Literacy Skills Change Over Time and in Four Different Ways




A Review of:

Kirker, M. J., & Stonebraker, I. (2019). Architects, renovators, builders and fragmenters: A model for first year students’ self-perceptions and perceptions of information literacy. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 45(1), 1-8.


Objective – To explore students’ perceptions of their information literacy skills and how these change during the first-year experience.

Design – A longitudinal qualitative study using cognitive dissonance theory.

Setting – Two large public universities in the United States of America.

Subjects – Students enrolled in research methods and information literacy-based courses in their first semester.

Methods – Students were required to submit two written self-reflections as part of their course; the first was completed in the first two weeks of the semester and the second at the end of the semester. Informed consent was obtained for all reflections used for the study. The authors selected 12 students (6 from each institution) to participate in semi-structured interviews at the end of their first year. A total of 178 self-reflections were included in the analysis.

Main Results – The study found that students’ understanding of research changed during the first-year experience, and that students had four main journeys related to their information literacy skills and perceptions. Instances of cognitive dissonance were observed. Students can consider themselves both good and bad researchers at the same time. The study also revealed the research process as an emotional labour, not just an intellectual one.

Conclusion – The study concluded that a shared understanding of “research” between librarians and students is needed in order to teach information literacy effectively. It is also important to recognise that students transform their information literacy over time (not just from a single class or program) and that teaching needs to meet students where they are on their journey, depending on their “developmental paths.”


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Author Biography

Alisa Howlett, University of Southern Queensland

Coordinator, Evidence Based Practice




How to Cite

Howlett, A. (2020). First-Year Students’ Understanding of Research and Their Information Literacy Skills Change Over Time and in Four Different Ways. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 15(2), 174–176.



Evidence Summaries