Reviewed by:
  • The New Digital Scholar: Exploring and Enriching the Research and Writing Practices of NextGen Students ed. by Randall McClure and James P. Purdy
  • Paul F. McKenna, lecturer
Randall McClure and James P. Purdy (eds.). The New Digital Scholar: Exploring and Enriching the Research and Writing Practices of NextGen Students. Medford, NJ: American Society for Information Science and Technology by Information Today, 2013. ISBN 978-1-57387-475-5. $59.50.

This collection of essays provides the reader with a rich resource for both understanding and responding to the research needs of digital natives - whom the editors dub "NextGen students." While the contributions for this publication are provided by qualified authors speaking from an American college and university perspective, there is much that Canadian information professionals may glean from the authors' recent experiences and explorations.

The essays have been divided into four categories: students and the research-writing "problem"; explorations of what students do in the undergraduate writing classroom; pedagogical solutions to enrich the research and writing practices of students; and programmatic solutions to enrich the research and writing practices of students. With 28 contributors involved in this collection, the reader is offered a wide range of practical advice on the special challenges posed by NextGen students.

With contributions from a blend of writing instructors and librarians, the collection brings into sharp focus the challenges confronting those tasked with the responsibility of enhancing the research and writing skills of undergraduate students. Naturally, there is much discussion of the important influence of information literacy (IL) throughout this work, as well as considerable reliance upon the skills in this arena recommended by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). What is particularly valuable for those working in this field of academic endeavour is the operationalization of these skills in specific college and university settings. Many of the contributors have summarized their own efforts to meet their NextGen students on their own terms and prepare [End Page R2] assignments, assessments, and activities that capitalize on their technological acumen and information seeking preferences, including Google and Wikipedia.

Janice Walker, for example, provides an account of the Learning Information Literacy across the Curriculum (LILAC) Project, at Georgia Southern University. This project represents the collaboration between faculty and librarians aimed at improving how students locate, evaluate, and synthesize information. Walker has cleverly used Camtasia Studio software to capture screen activity for students engaged in her research. She has applied a "research aloud protocol" (RAP) that is quite effective.

There is considerable coverage across these essays of the importance of ensuring that students continue to improve their ability to conduct "deep" research. With the avalanche of data that descends upon students entering their post-secondary careers it is not surprising that undergraduates form a predilection for Google and other search tools that produce instantaneous, though not always academically sound, results. Several contributors invoke the work of Nicholas Carr and challenge his view that Google makes us "stupid," although few seem to disagree with the notion that the Internet has somehow managed to alter how our brains operate in a digital world.

Overall, this publication provides a useful tool for those seeking to engage with NextGen students in ways that are meaningful, relevant, and flexible. While it remains difficult for librarians, information specialists, and writing instructors to transform pedagogical approaches rooted in print media and conventional research modalities, this series of papers opens the mind to what is possible in fostering new digital scholarship. [End Page R3]

Paul F. McKenna, lecturer
School of Information Management, Dalhousie University