Assessment of university student web searching competency by a task‐based online test

Ren Ding (School of Information Management, Wuhan University, Hubei, China)
Feicheng Ma (School of Information Management, Wuhan University, Hubei, China)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Publication date: 30 May 2013



The purpose of this paper is to assess student web searching competency. The paper aims to determine varying levels of university student competency in web searches and to investigate and compare their competency levels of searching academic and daily‐life tasks.


The study adopted a quantitative research method of giving study participants a controllable experiment, a task‐based online test (TBOT), to evaluate web searching competency based on student searching performance. Participants included 141 undergraduate and graduate students from Wuhan University, China. Their searching competency level was assessed by testing their searching effectiveness and searching efficiency.


Student average web searching competency level was found to be comparatively low overall, within preliminary stages of development. A lot of students are unable to search the web with efficiency. Competency levels for searching academic tasks were higher than those of daily‐life tasks, especially when the degree of difficulty increased. These two levels, however, have a significant positive correlationship. In information literacy education it is therefore vital to teach students comprehensive web searching competency that includes knowledge and techniques for both academic and daily‐life search tasks.


Using the TBOT to assess student web searching competency is novel in the field of library and information science. By conducting this pilot experiment, librarians and teachers will be able to design and promote an improved information literacy education according to students' specific web searching competency status, instead of assumed goal levels.



Ding, R. and Ma, F. (2013), "Assessment of university student web searching competency by a task‐based online test", The Electronic Library, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 359-375.

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