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Effect Of Library Instruction On Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Design Projects

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovations in ECE Education III

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.577.1 - 12.577.8



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Paper Authors


Brian Otis University of Washington

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Brian Otis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington.

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Linda Whang University of Washington

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Linda Whang is Engineering Instructional Services Librarian at the University of Washington Engineering Library.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Effect of library instruction on undergraduate electrical engineering design projects


This study examines the effect of library instruction on two sections of the same senior-level electrical engineering course in analog integrated circuit design. One section received a one- hour library instruction session while the other section did not. The premise of the study is that inclusion of library instruction will result in higher utilization of scholarly resources in the students’ final projects for which they were required to design, analyze, and simulate a circuit that meets a given set of specifications.

The results confirm that the section that received library instruction consulted and cited more scholarly resources than the section that received no training in use of library resources. We also found a positive correlation between the students’ use of scholarly materials and their final project grade.


Engineering students, like the professional engineers documented in the literature1,2, tend to “minimize loss rather than maximize gain” when searching for information for their engineering projects. That is, they gravitate toward sources with which they are familiar—e.g. colleagues or peers, personal files, textbooks, lecture notes, and the internet, rather than spend the time to search for more authoritative sources of information. Engineering students are often unaware of the scholarly resources contained in research databases provided by their college or university library.

This work studies the effectiveness of collaborative teaching between engineering and library faculty. Fundamentally, we wish to investigate whether devoting valuable class time to library instruction is a worthwhile investment. Through a detailed literature review and experimental study, we will explore the impact of focused library instruction on the quality and quantity of cited scholarly references in students’ final project reports. Two subsequent offerings of the same course are compared: one with intensive library instruction and one without. A bibliographic figure-of-merit (FOM) is defined and used as a tool to study the effect of the library instruction. We then explore the correlation between the bibliographic FOM and the final project grade.

Literature Review

As a group, engineers and their information-seeking behavior have long been of interest to librarians and other information professionals. Extensive research has been done on how engineers go about finding the information they need in their work. Several studies have found that engineers tend to rely heavily on personal stores of information and their colleagues, and

Otis, B., & Whang, L. (2007, June), Effect Of Library Instruction On Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Design Projects Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2620

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