Users’ Perceptions of Research Guides: Feedback from a Student Focus Group
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Are research guides useful to our users? Are they worth the time and effort we invest in creating and maintaining them? Usage statistics may serve as a helpful indicator of usefulness, but only tell part of the story. To better understand users’ perceptions of research guides, the LibGuides Team at University of Wisconsin-Madison, collaborating with a subject specialist librarian, conducted a user study of research guides. The purpose of the study was to gain feedback on two research guides in particular, as well as research guides in general, concerning their usefulness, content, usability, discoverability, and marketing. The study consisted of an online questionnaire and a focus group. Key findings: None of the participants were familiar with research guides as a resource. Participants viewed the guides as especially useful for beginning graduate students and advanced undergraduates. They especially liked search boxes for books and articles, electronic resources, reading lists, and reference works. To make the guides more relevant to advanced graduate students, they suggested adding academic career information such as dissertation writing and job hunting. They also suggested expansion of subject coverage. They expect to find research guides on the library and departmental homepages. They suggested marketing the research guides to faculty for inclusion in syllabi and course sites, introducing them in new graduate student orientations and library instruction sessions, and other marketing resources such as posters and social media. Details about the study’s methods, findings, conclusions, recommendations, and unintended outcomes will be discussed. The presentation will describe how feedback obtained from the study was used to make changes to improve the specific guides and inform general practices for creating, providing access to, and marketing of research guides. Attendees will hear ideas for conducting similar assessment projects in their libraries, as well as suggestions for designing effective research guides.