Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

An Analysis of the Literature on Instruction in Academic Libraries

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

An Analysis of the Literature on Instruction in Academic Libraries

Article excerpt

This research examined the literature on instruction in academic libraries to determine the journals in which such articles were published, the types of articles, and changes in the types by year. Results show that Research Strategies, Reference Services Review, College & Research Libraries, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, and Reference & User Services Quarterly have published the most articles on academic library instruction. The most frequent types of articles were those classed as essays, which included articles on current developments and the philosophy of instruction, and articles discussing instruction for searching online catalogs and databases. No significant differences were determined for changes in type of articles by the year in which they were published. For articles that were research-based, surveys or questionnaires were the most frequently used data collection tool. The most frequently used inferential statistical tests were chisquares and t-tests.

What is the structure of the literature on instruction in academic libraries? Where are the articles published? How many are based on empirical research? These are the basic questions that have driven this research.

In 1980, the Research Committee of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Bibliographic Instruction Section published the "Research Agenda for Bibliographic Instruction." (1) In 2000, the ACRL Instruction Section charged its Research and Scholarship Committee to update this document, and the revised agenda was published in the February 2003 issue of College & Research Libraries News. (2) Both of these documents sought to formulate questions that could facilitate research of library-related instruction in academic libraries. The 1980 research agenda organized its research questions into three general topics: library skills, defining needs and measuring actual levels; the design and implementation of library and bibliographic instruction programs; and management aspects of bibliographic instruction. Similarly, the 2003 research agenda focused on four areas: learners, teaching, organizational context, and assessment. Both research agendas sought to increase the level of research being done on instruction within academic libraries.

Although the current study was not directly based on the updated research agenda, it does provide an exploratory analysis of the literature of instruction that can be used as a springboard for additional research into the topic of instruction and information literacy in the academic library This research asked several questions:

1. In which journals are articles on instruction in academic libraries published?

2. What are the topics of the articles that have been published?

3. How has the literature of instruction in academic libraries changed over the years?

4. What is the nature of research articles on instruction in academic libraries?

5. For research articles, what are the research methods used and what types of statistics are utilized?


The literature on bibliographic instruction is abundant, but research that actually examines the nature of articles in the field is sparse. Two articles by Rader stand out as important reviews of instruction and information literacy. In her 2000 article in Reference Services Review, Rader reports on the almost 3,900 articles she has reviewed over the previous twenty-five years in her annual summary of the literature of instruction. (3) Similarly, in her 2002 article in Library Trends, she provides a brief summary and analysis of more than five thousand articles for the thirty years included in her review. (4) In both articles, Rader provides a very succinct and useful summary of the overall publication trends in the field of instruction and lists what she classes as the best publications from the time periods in her review. She does not, however, provide an article-level analysis of the literature that addresses the journals or the types of articles represented, nor does she attempt any statistical analyses of the trends over time. …

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