I didn’t know what I didn’t know – Postgraduate science students as new library users

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While considerable effort goes into equipping undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering and medicine with knowledge discovery skills and an understanding of the scientific literature, many of them complete their first degrees with a relatively basic level of competence. Undergraduate science education demands an intensive development of subject knowledge and technical skills with less emphasis on the primary literature, and unless an information literacy element is expressly built into science programmes undergraduate students are not routinely required to make use of library resources (Bogucka & Wood, 2009; Wiegant, Scager, & Boonstra, 2011). Postgraduate study, particularly at masters and doctoral level, places quite a different level of demand on students, and even to formulate a research question requires an extensive knowledge of the existing literature. The first part of the thesis journey is the literature review which provides a theoretical and methodological grounding of the whole project, but students often arrive at postgraduate study poorly equipped to perform this task (Hoffmann, Antwi-Nsiah, Feng, & Stanley, 2008; Miller, 2014). Those skills that they have acquired tend to be based around Google and Google Scholar (Wu & Chen, 2014) which provide a good result for relatively little effort, but which lack the functionality to fully support a literature review at this level (Johnson & Simonsen, 2015). Increasing internationalisation of postgraduate education is another factor impacting on this situation, although it would be wrong to assume that English-speaking students or those from “developed countries” possess the appropriate skills for an advanced degree literature review.