The February 21, 2013 issue of the HIU student newspaper, The Hope International Tribune, reported on an informal survey in which they presumably asked traditional undergraduate students about the "Top 10 Places to Study On/Off Campus" (p.3). Here is the list in brief:
10. The lab (I didn't know there was one.)
9. The Brea Mall
8. In bed
7. The pool area
6. The beach
5. Jay's Coffee
4. Craig Park
2. CSUF Arboretum
I was disappointed that library was not mentioned at all (but Disneyland was?) But, because the library seems to be pretty busy, especially lately. I wondered how reliable the results really were.
They didn’t mention the particular research method employed. They didn’t even claim to have used one. But because it was on the Opinion page, I shouldn't really expect to find data backing up the validity of their findings. But should I simply ignore it? I didn't ask, but I imagined that, in the interest of time, the HITribune staff simply looked around at each other and asked, “Hey, what’s the best place to study?” When they had compiled ten adequate responses to fill the space, they were done.
But what if they had the time to do genuine research? If solid research methodologies were employed, it is my hypothesis that the library would appear on a list of good places to study. We could use the same research question and with a few good search terms we could certainly find a number of peer-reviewed articles for a literature review.
We would need to define key concepts. What counts as "study?" (Does it include study group sessions, preparing presentations, searching for and gathering materials, reading, and writing?)
What constitutes a "good" place? What are the criteria? Free WiFi? Food? Late hours? Quiet? Among the reasons defining the above list as good: food and drink, noise (when silence is too loud), comfort, free wifi, and low cost (the "magic" of Disneyland apparently overcomes this obstacle.)
How would we define a successful or productive study session? Would it measure the number of articles read, pages written, assignments completed, questions answered or problems solved? What about personal satisfaction? Does that count for anything? How does it compare with other definitions of success?
Who would we ask? Would the survey be limited to students with a certain GPA - assuming that the opinions of those with higher ones would be more authoritative? Would the survey sample include commuter students or online students - how far off campus would qualify for inclusion? What other demographic information might be useful?
What would be the purpose of the research? To advise future students? To help the university become better aware of student needs and expectations? To contribute to the body of knowledge about current college student study habits? How would we gather the data? Is there a standard instrument that could be employed - allowing us to compare our responses with other similar studies. What would be an adequate number of responses?
At the end of it all, would my hypothesis bear out? What could we conclude from our findings? Whether or not the library appeared on the list of good study places, we could learn something from such a study. But would it be any more insightful than the opinions reported by Tribune? So what if students do not identify the library as a good place to study? Should we be concerned? I can't help it. I am.
I do not mean to be critical of the Tribune. It was clearly not their intention to conduct or publish scientific research. Nevertheless, this story did is raise questions that require further study.
Robin Hartman is Director of Library
Services at Hope International University. She is curious about how
the organization and communication of information shapes society and
is committed to equipping students to impact the world for Christ.