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Collaborative information seeking in student group projects

Chris Leeder (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA)
Chirag Shah (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 19 September 2016




The purpose of this paper is to gain a better understanding of the collaborative information seeking (CIS) behaviors of students conducting authentic group work projects, and the features of a collaborative search system that are most useful to these students.


An exploratory study was conducted with 41 participants in ten groups working on an in class, for-credit group project assignment utilizing a collaborative search system. Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered on the everyday search practices of students over the course of the group project, along with quality scores for the sources found.


Results showed that student behavior during their CIS related to the quality of their search outcomes, as the effective and efficient searchers found better quality sources. Students’ pre-task attitudes and experiences toward group work also relate to the quality of their search outcomes. Student feedback demonstrated the importance of making collaborative search tools convenient, lightweight, and easy to use.

Practical implications

These findings may be useful to researchers designing and studying the effectiveness of collaborative search tools, and to instructors planning to incorporate group projects into their classes.


In this paper, the authors document the authentic behaviors and attitudes of students conducting group projects in an classroom setting, and offer specific recommendations for developers of collaborative search systems. These findings provide greater context for CIS research into the collaborative search behaviors of students conducting group work projects.



This work was supported by the IMLS Early Career Development Grant No. RE-04-12-0105-12. Thanks to Professor Nicholas J. Belkin and Associate Professor Nina Wacholder for their assistance with the study.


Leeder, C. and Shah, C. (2016), "Collaborative information seeking in student group projects", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 68 No. 5, pp. 526-544.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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