A study examined reading strategies in relation to information-seeking stages, tasks and reading media in an academic setting. Understanding reading practices and needs in the context of information-seeking can refine our understanding of user choices and preferences for information sources (e.g. textbooks, articles, multimedia content) and media (e.g. print and digital tools used for reading). It can also help to examine the changes in reading practices brought about by digital devices and content.
The data were collected via an online questionnaire from a sample of graduate students over the course of two months. The data were analysed using descriptive statistics.
The authors found that all information-seeking stages and all academic tasks were characterised by a combination of “deep” and “surface” reading and a use of both print and electronic resources. Contrary to previous studies that linked digital media to “surface” reading (e.g. skimming, searching for keywords), the participants reported a high number of “deep” reading tactics (e.g. annotating, connecting text to prior knowledge) while using digital resources.
The study relied on a convenience sample of library and information science students, so some findings can be attributed to the sample’s demographics and academic demands. The findings imply that at all stages of information-seeking for all academic tasks, graduate students were engaged in both deep and surface reading using both print and electronic resources.
The findings show that students read print and digital texts, suggesting that it might be premature for academic libraries to part with their print collections. Understanding relationships between academic task, information-seeking and reading can aid students in choosing the right reading resources for their academic tasks, educators in assigning appropriate materials for course projects, libraries in providing appropriate resources to their readers and information retrieval system designers in offering useful features for different reading needs and styles.
The findings indicate a shift in academic work culture and reliance on digital texts for deep and surface reading.
The study produced preliminary support for the development of a unified information-seeking and reading model.
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