“The Library Catalog is Definitely the Best Place to Find Articles!” Overconfidence among Undergraduate Library Users

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Beginning in the 1980s, researchers in a wide array of academic disciplines surveyed undergraduate students to learn if they were overconfident with regard to their knowledge of disciplinary subject matter. The majority of researchers have found that students tend to overestimate their abilities within a certain body of knowledge. Up until recently, most of these projects were conducted in the fields of education, psychology, and economics. In the past few years, several academic librarians have applied these methodologies to their undergraduate patrons, curious as to whether this population demonstrates similar overconfidence in their grasp of academic research. The present study surveyed 34 undergraduates enrolled in psychology classes at a large urban university in the United States to determine if these students were overconfident about their knowledge in key library research areas. These questions included citing and referencing, identifying components of scholarly and popular sources, and developing and applying searches in electronic resources. A general knowledge survey was created for comparison purposes. Statistical analysis showed that students displayed marked overconfidence on both tools, signifying a need for increased library and metacognitive skill instruction.

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