This project uses qualitative methods to examine the scholarly habits and explore the diversity of the undergraduate experience in the urban, public, commuter colleges that make up the CUNY system. Our project makes an important contribution to recent qualitative studies of undergraduates, which have largely focused on students at residential campuses, and will provide critical, complementary data. We anticipate that the data gathered during this study will have broad utility to many stakeholders in the academic and library communities; in particular we intend for it to inform improvements to library services and resources, and contribute to student success at CUNY.
Ethnographic techniques such as interviews, photo surveys, and mapping diaries will be used to gather qualitative data from faculty and students.
The Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project is a two-year study of the student research process. The project is funded by an LSTA grant awarded to Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) by the Illinois State Library. The goal of the project is to understand how students do research, and how relationships between students, teaching faculty and librarians shape that process. ERIAL is also an applied study—that is, research pursued with the purpose of uncovering, understanding and addressing social problems. As such, its goal is to use the results to develop more user-centered library services.
As the Davidson Library plans for its new building and renovation, it has prioritized the task of learning more about its most enigmatic user group: graduate students. Using ethnographic methods, the library collaborated with an anthropologist to uncover the work processes and campus spaces of these students. The project had three objectives: 1. to lead to a greater understanding of graduate students and their needs, 2. to facilitate discussion between the library, graduate students, and the larger university community, and 3. to prompt library and university improvements. The project revealed that most graduate students do not use the physical library; however, they do rely heavily upon online journals. Additionally, many were unaware of the library’s full range of services and they often felt less than proficient when using the library’s website and online databases.