41.3% of students use social media for research or study purposes, according to a survey released in February 2012 by ebrary. And although most are not yet engaging with social media tools for these purposes, there are some usages which a majority of students report being likely to engage in. For example, roughly 7 in 10 are either very likely (22%) or somewhat likely (47.2%) to use a social media tool to connect with other students with similar academic interest, and slightly less than 60% have some interest in sharing research information with peers or using research recommended by peers.
Students Not So Friendly With Authority Figures, Though
Students are less likely to want to connect with authority figures over a social media site, though. 54.7% said they were unlikely to pose a research question to their faculty/instructors using a social media tool, while an even greater proportion (64.9%) said they were unlikely to pose a research question to their librarians.
Half Use Smartphones to Access SocNets
When asked how they access social media sites, 50.8% cited their smartphone, although laptops and desktops led easily, with 95.9% of respondents. 16.6% also said they used a tablet to access social media sites. According to comScore data released in February 2012, 64 million smartphone owners accessed social networking or blog destinations via their device in December 2011, an increase of 77% from December 2010.
Search Engines Prove Useful Study Tools
85% of students reported using Google and other search engines for research and class assignments, up 5% from 81% in the 2008 survey, while 78% used search for personal reasons. In fact, search engines proved more popular than print books (79%), e-books (74%), and print textbooks (73%) for research and class assignments, possibly because search was used for personal reasons by a far greater proportion than print books (54%), e-books (34%), and print textbooks (21%). Google Scholar and Wikipedia (both at 56%) are also used for research purposes by a majority of students, although social web applications such as Facebook are less popular (16%).
When looking at trustworthiness of these sources though, print books (92%), e-books, and print textbooks (both at 89%) shoot to the top, with just a slight majority trusting search engines (54%) and only about one-quarter trusting Wikipedia.
About the Data: The ebrary survey was conducted in September and October of 2011, and had 6,329 participants. Nearly 70% of respondents were from the US or Canada. The student level from freshman to doctoral was nearly identical with approximately 70% undergraduate, almost evenly split among 1st through 4th years.