Using transaction log analysis to assess student search behavior in the library instruction classroom

Susan Avery, Daniel G. Tracy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this study is to determine how undergraduate students search in the context of a library instruction session. The results of an assessment of transaction logs are shared to provide evidence of student search behavior within a class setting. Design/methodology/approach – Transaction logs from 29 library instruction sessions using the library’s federated search tool were analyzed. Using a rubric, the authors assessed the logs to discover if students followed the instruction provided to construct more relevant, targeted searches, if they selected recommended resources and if they exhibited persistence in their searching. Findings – The study found most students had difficulty translating instruction on how to use quotation marks into their own searches, were mostly successful when choosing a database and notes varying participation patterns in classes taught at different times. Practical implications – Implications of this study include greater awareness of student search behaviors during library instruction sessions as well as guidance for providing reference services, particularly virtual reference where it is not possible to see how students construct searches. Originality/value – Although there have been studies of student search behaviors, examining behaviors during the context of a library instruction session is unique. This study provides an opportunity to observe student searching in a classroom setting and provides recommendations for more effective library instruction, both in the classroom and at the reference desk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-335
Number of pages16
JournalReference Services Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 3 2014


  • Assessment
  • Library instruction
  • Search behavior
  • Transaction logs
  • Undergraduates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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