This paper presents a study examining the effect of direct information fluency instruction in a Mechanical Engineering senior capstone laboratory course. An experiment was designed where the students examined different drag reduction techniques on heavy vehicles. This topic was selected because the students would be forced to carry out a literature search beyond their fluid mechanics textbook. The study was designed to examine a) students’ attitudes toward research practices and b) whether supplemental instruction activities in information fluency would produce measurable improvements in the students’ information fluency skills. A research attitudes survey given to the course corroborated past research that online tools are the preferred research tool and perceived to be easier to use than resources such as databases and the library. The class was then evenly divided into a test group and a control group. A librarian gave the test group supplemental in-class instruction that emphasized methods in searching, evaluating the quality of, and proper usage of research sources. The control group was given additional activities related to the experiment. Two quantitative methods were employed to assess the information fluency skills of the two different groups before and after the supplemental instruction. First, students completed information fluency skills assessments prior to and after the instructional activity. Second, the students’ technical reports for this experiment and the one prior were scored using a rubric measuring the information fluency skills demonstrated. The data from the skills assessment showed improvement in search strategies in the test group as compared to the control group. The data from the writing assessment showed significant improvement in the quality of sources used in the test group as compared to the control group. The results support the hypothesis that the instructional activity produced measurable improvements in some of the areas of information fluency examined in this study.
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