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Collaborative Information Behaviour of Engineering Students in a Senior Design Group Project: a Pilot Study

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Information Literacy: Theory and Practice

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.334.1 - 22.334.12

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Paper Authors


Nasser Saleh Queen's University

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Nasser Saleh is Associate Librarian and the Integrated Learning Librarian at Queen's University Engineering and Science Library. He received a Bachelor's Degree (Hons.) in Electrical Engineering (University of Khartoum), a Master's Degree in Telecommunications and Networks Management (Syracuse University), and a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science (Syracuse University) and he is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Information Studies at McGill University researching Collaborative Information Behavior of Undergraduate Engineering Students. Nasser is actively involved with integrating information literacy skills in undergraduate engineering courses at Queen's University.

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Collaborative Information Behaviour of Engineering Students in a Senior Design Group Project: a Pilot StudyInformation seeking is an important and integrated part of work domains and work practices, andhas been the focus of much research in information science. While many different models ofinformation seeking have been proposed, most assume that the information seeker is anindividual interacting with complex information spaces. Recent research, however, has foundthat people frequently collaborate and communicate when they retrieve and use information, andresearchers have begun to challenge the individualistic approach by exploring the social,contextual and collaborative dimensions of information behaviour and information searching.This paper presents a pilot study of an ongoing research conducted by an Academic EngineeringLibrarian to investigate the collaborative information behaviour of undergraduate engineeringstudents working on a course-based engineering project to investigate how studentscollaboratively identify their information needs and then seek and use information sources fromdifferent channels.This research is designed to examine collaborative information behaviour in a naturalisticeducational setting to gain more understanding of how students collaboratively seek informationin an academic course and how students’ information behaviours are affected by the learningtask and its perceived complexity.The design of the research is based on a qualitative and longitudinal research approach that isconcerned with an understanding of the group members’ experience during the project. Theresearch method will be a multi-method approach that includes a questionnaire and set ofinterviews to collect data on complex phenomena, as each individual method would deliver onlypartial evidence on the phenomena while multiple methods will cover multiple aspects ofstudents’ experience.A pilot study was conducted in March 2010 to collect data about students’ experience in thedesign course and how the project task interacted with the group’s collaborative informationneeds, seeking, and use. The pilot study did not aim to ask students about the information-seeking process in detail but it did try to capture the relationship between project task andstudents’ collaborative information behaviour.A web- based questionnaire of 33 questions was sent to students near the project end to getfeedback about their experience of collaborative information behaviour in the project. Theselected class comprised 63 students divided into 20 project groups. The questionnaire has twoparts that measure the perceived learning task complexity and the collaborative information usefrom the students’ point of view. Many questions are open ended to allow students to thinkaloud about their experience in addition to questions that indicate their level of agreement usingLickert scale concerning a number of statements about the project topic and their informationbehaviour. The questionnaire was to be completed individually by students but the replies weregrouped together by project group for intra-group analysis. Responses were received from 42students (a response rate of 66%). This paper will present the analysis of the pilot study resultsand draw conclusions from them. 1

Saleh, N. (2011, June), Collaborative Information Behaviour of Engineering Students in a Senior Design Group Project: a Pilot Study Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

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