Understanding ESL/International Studentsí Experiences Using Canadian Academic Libraries: A Proposal
Research Problem
Review of Related Literature
Research Questions
Ethics Review
Implementation Plan
Dissemination Plan
Project Budget

Data Collection

The method of data collection will be qualitative, semi-structured interviews with 40 participants. The interviews will last 45 to 60 minutes long each. Each participant will be interviewed once. The research will be conducted at the University of Alberta.

Population Demographics Undergraduate student =UGRD Graduate student =GS (See appendices for University of Alberta Statistics)

At the University of Alberta there are 4,012 part-time students (2,196 UGRD; 1816 GS) and 30,605 full-time students (26,541 UGRD; 4,064 GS) for a total of 34,617 students at the U of A. 574 (14%) of part-time students are not Canadian citizens and 3,565 (11%) full-time students are not Canadian citizens for a total of 4,139 (11.9%). 53.15% of all non-Canadian citizen students are UGRD and 46.85% of all non-Canadian citizen students are GS.

1574 full-time GS are not-Canadian citizens which is 38% of full-time GS. 1991 full-time UGRD are not Canadian citizens which is 7.5% of full-time UGRD. 365 part-time GS are not Canadian citizens which is 20% of part-time GS. 209 part-time UGRD are not Canadian citizens which is 9.52% of part-time UGRD. The total number of GS is 5880. 1939 are not Canadian citizens which is 32%. The total number of UGRD is 28,737. 2200 are not Canadian citizens which is 7.655%.

These non-Canadian citizen students come from 132 different countries (5 students did not report their country). The number of students per country ranges from 1-1049. The top countries that represent 100 or more students are: China 1201; Hong Kong 162; India 260; Iran (Islamic Republic) 125; Korea (Republic of) 237; Pakistan 102; United States 138 (which is not eligible because the official language and language of instruction is English).

China is by far the largest demographic population. 29% of the total non-Canadian citizen population at the U of A is from China. 26% of all part-time non-Canadian citizen students are from China, and 29.42% of all full-time non-Canadian citizen students are from China. 35% of all non-Canadian citizen GS students are from China. 23% of all non-Canadian citizen UGRD students are from China.

Selection and Characteristics of Participants

Based on the above statistics, there are many possible ways to select participants. There are slightly more UGRD than GS; however, in terms of the whole population, the percentage of GS is much higher than the percentage of UGRD. There is also the factor of part-time or full-time student status. However, the demographics between part-time and full-time remain fairly stable.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, the researcher believes that the most representative sample of ESL students in the non-Canadian citizen population would be 50% graduate students and 50% undergraduate students. There are large numbers of full-time and part-time and so that will not be a factor for this study, and both types of students will be accepted. 30-35% of the chosen graduate students must be from China, and 20-25% of the chosen undergraduate students must be from China. The remaining participants will not be chosen based on country of origin; they need only meet the other requirements. However, in order to get a variety of students, I will not accept more than three participants from the same country (with the exception of China).

For this study, a participant must be an undergraduate or graduate student for who whom English is not their primary language (ESL). They must be from a country where English is not the official language; nor is it the medium of instruction. Since the focus of the study is the participantsí experience using the libraries at the U of A, they must have been a student here for at least one semester. They must also not have previously studied at another institution in a country where English is the official language or the language of instruction, for more than one semester. Gender and age will not be factors for selection.

Recruitment of Participants and Location of Interviews

To recruit participants, posters will be pinned up late August in the Student Union Building (SUB), Humanities Union Building (HUB) and Central Academic Building(CAB) because a lot of students hang out and study in those buildings. Posters will also be put up in the Administration Building since non-Canadian citizens need to file a lot of paper work at the registrarís office. Extra posters will be set up in the Science buildings and the Art buildings since a large percentage of the targeted population are with those faculties; particularly the science faculty (see appendix). There will also be extra effort to recruit Chinese participants, and this will be accomplished by handing out flyers to Chinese student associations and groups who often set up tables in SUB or CAB.

Participants will be able to contact the researcher by phone or e-mail. The researcher will explain the study over the phone, or by meeting in person. The researcher will arrange an interview with the participants who successfully meet the criteria. The interviews will take place in one of the conference rooms at the Knowledge Common in Cameron Library. They can be booked online and seem fairly available if booked one or two weeks in advance. These rooms offer a quiet and confidential space that is neutral and safe to the participant and the researcher.

Data Collection Method

The data collection procedure will be semi-structured interviews. The interviews will be individual with only the participant and researcher present. The interview will be audio taped. The interviews will last 45 to 60 minutes and they will be in-depth and qualitative.

The following visual materials will be used in the interviews: a library book, a journal, a print copy of an electronic journal, a screen shot of the U of A library Web site, a screen shot of the catalogue, a screen shot of the database page from the library Web site. Many ESL students are unfamiliar with library terminology and they may hide their ignorance out of embarrassment. This way I can show them a visual example so that I know we are talking about the same thing, and that they understand me. This will increase the credibility of the study.

Several general questions will be prepared in advance (questions relating to age, faculty and area of study, student status, country of origin, time spent here, previous library experience and instruction, etc.). The researcher will also have topical questions prepared, but will explore ideas as they arise in the interview. These topical questions will be prepared based on common issues ESL students face, that the literature has presented. The interviews will enable the researcher to gather in-depth qualitative data about the participantsí experiences as an ESL/International student using the libraries on campus for research and projects.

Credibility: The interviews are qualitative and in-depth, lasting up to an hour long. The interviews will be conducted on campus in a library, and visual materials will be present so that participants can accurately discuss their library experiences. The questions will cover as many aspects about library use and experiences as possible, and the researcher will ask very in-depth questions.

Transferability: The proposal goes into great detail about the demographics of students at the U of A, and the subsequent selection of participants. The method of study is explained, and clear definitions are given. The study states that the data will be analyzed with ACRL standards for information literacy. The researcher has provided this information so that it is easy for other researchers to determine if this study would transfer to their setting.

Dependability: Data will be compared between participants and within participants so that the researcher can get the truest sense of what the data reveals. It is important not to take a single comment by a participant out of context. Everything the participant said must be taken into consideration, and as well, a participantís experience must be compared with the other participantsí experiences to determine if there is a pattern, or if the participant is unique.

Confirmability: The researcher expects to find that the participants will not be engaging with the library at the level necessary to indicate information literacy. However, the researcherís biases will not effect the results. Thick description of the data will be presented in the study, and only the data and not the researcherís opinions will be used to determine if the participants meet ACRLís standards.

No external permissions are required for this research beyond permission from the various University department(s) to put up flyers on campus.

Boundaries of research

This current study will identify some common themes and patterns in the experiences of ESL students at the library. It will give a thick description of the studentsí experiences. It will determine if ESL students at the U of A meet the ACRL standards for information literacy. The research is using a large sample size for a qualitative study, and therefore the results will be transferable to other similar Canadian academic institutes. The results will be useful to the U of A library and others academic libraries interested in better meeting the needs of their ESL students.

It is certainly possible to do a quantitative study on this topic, however the researcher believes that it is important to first understand ESL studentsí experiences using the U of A library system, and a qualitative method is more appropriate to get that information. In the future, the researcher would like to do a quantitative study to determine if (and to what degree) ESL students are information literate using a sample size of 10% the target population. The researcher believes that the data gathered from this current study would be very valuable for a future quantitative study.

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