May 26, 2022

Research Article: “A Comparison of Beginning and Advanced Engineering Students’ Description of Information Skills”

The following article was published today in the latest issue of Evidence Based Library and Information Practice.


A Comparison of Beginning and Advanced Engineering Students’ Description of Information Skills


Kerrie Anna Douglas
Purdue University

Amy S. Van Epps
Purdue University

Brittany Mihalec-Adkins
Purdue University

Michael Fosmire
Purdue University

Şenay Purzer
Purdue University

Vol 10, No 2 (2015)


Objective – The purpose of this research was to examine how beginning and advanced level engineering students report use of information when completing an engineering design process. This information is important for librarians seeking to develop information literacy curricula in the context of engineering design.

Methods – Researchers conducted semi-structured interviews about information strategies used in engineering design with 21 engineering students (10 first and second year; 11 senior and graduate). Researchers transcribed interviews and developed an inductive coding scheme. Then, from the coding scheme, researchers extracted broader themes.

Results – Beginning level engineering students interviewed: (a) relied primarily on the parameters explicitly given in the problem statement; (b) primarily used general search strategies; (c) were documentation oriented; and (d) relied on external feedback to determine when they had found enough information. Advanced level engineering students interviewed: (a) relied on both their own knowledge and the information provided in the problem statement; (b) utilized both general and specific search strategies; (c) were application oriented; and (d) relied on self-reflection and problem requirements to determine when they had found enough information.

Conclusion – Beginning level students describe information gathering as externally motivated tasks to complete, rather than activities that are important to inform their design. Advanced level students describe more personal investment in their use of information through consideration of information based on their prior knowledge and questioning information. Future research should consider how to best support beginning level engineering students’ personal engagement with information.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.