One of the most exciting things about RefME – apart from making citations accurate and easy – is that our data gives us some real insight into the way that students find and cite their sources. Why is that so exciting? Well, we think that this collective knowledge bank can be used to help researchers find the content that’s most useful for them, and institutions to provide the right materials for their students.
Just think about the millions that librarians spend every year on textbooks, journals and other resources, without necessarily knowing if students actually find them useful. How many times, after all, have you borrowed a bunch of books at the library only to find out when reading them at home that they were not really that relevant to the essay you were writing?
Citation and annotation data is a much better predictor of what students actually find useful, and we can see a future where, instead of being presented with thousands of search results to match a subject keyword, RefME will be able to give you exactly the information you need, based on what other students researching the same subject have found, cited, annotated and shared. Ultimately, that has huge power to improve learning outcomes for students all over the world who use RefME for free.
Since we launched a few months ago, more than a million students have used RefME to automate their citations, and we have already been able to spot some really interesting trends from all that collective wisdom.
Some were things we might have suspected, like the fact that Harvard, MLA, APA an Chicago were amongst the most popular citation styles, and that classics such as The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird were the top cited books. But would you have guessed, for example, that students are 3 times more likely to be hitting the books during Thanksgiving than on New Year’s Eve? The peak of the citation calendar, however, is in the Spring, with the busiest day being March 16th. And it seems that students are most active either mid-afternoon or late at night, with 3pm and 11pm emerging as the peak research hours.
The importance of citations also emerges as a theme as we start to delve deeper into the data, which shows that in the top institutions of the Ivy League, students tend to cite a lot more across the board (50% more books and YouTube videos, and 2.5 times as many articles than students at other colleges).
The data also shows how we’ve shifted to digital sources, with websites representing 40% of sources cited; a number predicted to rise to 46% by 2020.
You can take a look at these and some other fun facts about the way US students research in the full infographic below. Do these reflect your own experience? Let us know what you think by tweeting us @getrefme