Project Information Literacy (PIL) is a public benefit nonprofit, working in partnership with the University of Washington's Information School. We are dedicated to conducting an ongoing, large-scale research study about early adults and their research habits. We are currently collecting data from early adults enrolled in community colleges and public and private colleges and universities in the U.S.
Our goal is to understand how early adults conceptualize and operationalize research activities for course work and "everyday life" use and especially how they resolve issues of credibility, authority, relevance, and currency in the digital age.
Questions Frequently Asked
- At what stage is the study now?
- There is a lot of research already about information literacy, how is this study different?
- What practical impact is PIL meant to have?
- How do we collect our data?
- What is the history of PIL?
- How can I contact PIL?
In the fall of 2012, we began a study that asks "how do first-year college students develop research strategies for navigating the college information landscape?"
We conducted 35 one-hour interviews with freshmen on six US campuses (i.e., Belmont University, Harvard, California Maritime Academy, Ohio State University at Newark, Mesa Community College, and Santa Rosa Junior College). We interviewed students about the first few months of their college experience, especially how they made the information transition from high school to college.
We administered a large-scale online survey on the EasyBib site during early May 2013. We collected quantitative data for comparing how college freshmen research practices may differ from high school and college sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
We plan on releasing a PIL research report with findings in fall 2013 (open access and posted on the PIL site, ERIC, and SSRN). This study is being conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington's Information School with support from CengageLearning and Imagine Easy Solutions.
Unlike the majority of information literacy research studies, PIL is a study “across” different types of campuses (community colleges, state colleges, and public and private universities) from different geographic areas in the U.S.
Our goal is to help fill in some of the “missing pieces” of the information literacy puzzle and provide data that helps answer some of the following questions:
- How do early adults (in their own words) put their information literacy competencies into practice in learning environments in a digital age, regardless of how they may measure up to standards for being information literate?
- With the proliferation of online resources and new technologies, how do early adults recognize the information needs they may have and in turn, how do they locate, evaluate, select and use the information that is needed?
- How can teaching the critical and information literacy skills that are needed to enable lifelong learning be more effectively transferred to college students?
So far, our research study has had considerable impact and added to understanding of information literacy issues in five key areas:
- How information literacy training and coaching is provided to early adults by professors and librarians for conducting course-related research and for "everyday life" research (e.g., health and wellness, finance and commerce, news, and politics or policy).
- How college curriculum that requires course-related research and everyday life research is developed and communicated to early adults.
- How the design of online resources used by campus libraries and produced by database vendors, enhance or detract from early adults' research experiences.
- How (and by how much) different types of institutions impact the information-seeking strategies of their early adults.
- How we, as a society, may understand the information problem-solving potential of current U.S. college students who are an important subset of the "adult" cohort, given their unprecedented abundance in enrollment numbers, their professional destinies, and their likelihood to have "grown up digitally".
We collect data using large samples, mainly from students enrolled in college campuses situated throughout the U.S. Overall, we use social science research methods (i.e., focus groups, online surveys, interviews, and content analysis) and employ an information-seeking behavior approach in our research. We are information scientists who study information flows and information-problem solving strategies.
People often ask us, "Just how big of an operation is PIL?" We're small. We're grassroots. And we're hands-on and highly collaborative. We have almost 200 research liaisons who are employed at US colleges and universities in our volunteer sample, who have generously provided their time, effort, and access to their campuses to make our research studies possible.
Through the years, dedicated volunteers on PIL's Research Team have helped us collect data out in the field, including: Elizabeth L. Black (Ohio State University), Laureen Cantwell (University of Memphis), Jordan Eschler and Sean Fullerton (University of Washington), Sue Gilroy (Harvard), Sara Prahl (Colby College), Ann Roselle (Phoenix College), Carolyn Salvi (Tufts), Michele Van Hoeck (California Maritime Academy/CSU), and Sarah Vital (Saint Mary's College of California).
In 2007, a small team of faculty and librarians conducted a unique, exploratory research project at Saint Mary's College of California (SMC), led by PIL's Alison Head, then the Roy and Patricia Disney Visiting Professor in New Media at the small liberal arts college in the San Francisco Bay Area.
From this early work, PIL was founded in 2008 at the University of Washington's iSchool, by Alison Head and Mike Eisenberg, co-founder of the Big6 Model, a Professor and Dean Emeritus. From 2008 through July 2012, PIL was co-directed by Alison Head and Mike Eisenberg, Dean Emeritus and Professor in the University of Washington's Information School.
In July 2012, a new chapter began for PIL. PIL became a public benefit nonprofit that works in partnership with the University of Washington's Information School. PIL is dedicated to studying how early adults conceptualize and operationalize research in the digital age. In 2012, we began the PIL Passage Studies, a series of studies investigating the critical information transition early adults go through in their lives. We are focusing our research efforts on learning more about two cohorts--college graduates and first time freshmen.
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to send us general inquiries. We're happy to hear from you and will make every attempt to answer your questions.