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Using a Faceted Taxonomy to Investigate Student Selection of Information Sources in an Engineering Lab Course

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Assessing, Expanding, and Innovating Information Literacy

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

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Paper Authors


Amber Janssen California State University Maritime Academy

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Amber Janssen is a senior assistant librarian at California State University, Maritime Academy (CSUM). She is the liaison to the School of Engineering. Her research interests are in the instruction and assessment of information fluency in undergraduate education and the information use behaviors of engineers.

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William W. Tsai California State University Maritime Academy

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Dr. William W. Tsai is an associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at California State University, Maritime Academy (Cal Maritime). His research background is fluid mechanics and heat transfer and is examining research topics in laboratory education in those fields. Prior to Cal Maritime, Dr. Tsai was a Member of the Technical Staff in the Fluid Mechanics Group at The Aerospace Corporation. Dr. Tsai earned his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. at the University of California, Berkeley in Mechanical Engineering.

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Do the type of sources used by students in their lab reports relate to their comprehension of theory? The objective of this research project is to investigate the connections between student selection of information sources and the comprehension of theory in an engineering lab course. The results will provide instructors with a tool that provides multiple aspects and qualities to examine when assessing the information sources students use in an engineering lab course. This study examined the types of information sources that students cited in their lab reports by four facets that include format, author, editorial process, and publication purpose and compared them with a disciplinary evaluation of their technical reports. Classification of these facets was based on a taxonomy created for English composition courses. The taxonomy was modified to include information formats specific to the engineering discipline. The information sources were extracted from student lab reports over three years, and each citation was classified by the four facets. In addition, the reports themselves were evaluated for the demonstration of their understanding of the theory. Each student cohort was then divided into one of three performance categories (top, middle, and bottom third) based on the evaluation. The frequency of usage and the most frequent combinations of subfacet attributes were identified. The differences in the distribution of subfacet attributes were examined for relationships between the sources and performance. Although causation cannot be established, the data set could lay the groundwork in identifying the types of sources most commonly used by engineering students and those that are associated with the higher-performing students.

Janssen, A., & Tsai, W. W. (2020, June), Using a Faceted Taxonomy to Investigate Student Selection of Information Sources in an Engineering Lab Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35444

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