HEDS Research Practices Survey (RPS)


The HEDS Research Practices Survey (RPS) is a fifteen-minute questionnaire that assesses the information literacy of undergraduates, including their knowledge, attitudes, and practices in conducting academic research.  The Research Practices Survey questionnaire was developed by an inter-institutional group of liberal arts librarians, faculty members, and assessment specialists led by the St. Olaf Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment.

St. Olaf College is a member of the Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) Consortium, which consists of approximately 130 small, private, nonprofit institutions around the country that are committed to sharing and using information to more fully enact their missions and promote effective liberal arts education.

The RPS has been administered at St. Olaf since it was first piloted in Spring 2005. RPS results show how St. Olaf students’ experiences, attitudes, and proficiencies in academic research change during the first year of college and from the beginning to the end of college.  They also show how St. Olaf students’ proficiencies compare to those of their peers at other liberal arts institutions. RPS results have been used at St. Olaf to inform the content and process of library instruction, to shape requirements for research assignments, to help prepare new FYW and WRI instructors, and to evaluate programs engaging students in research projects.

HEDS RPS recent results and reports

The HEDS Research Practices Survey (RPS) was administered to the entire first-year class (Class of 2020) at the beginning and end of the 2016-17 academic year, and also administered to the entire senior class in Spring 2017. Among the first-years, 80% of those invited to participate did so before or during Week One, and 30% did so in the spring semester. Among the invited seniors, 31% participated. 

RPS results show that students’ familiarity with research terms and strategies and ability to evaluate sources improve, for the most part, over the course of the first year of college, and continue to improve through the remainder of their undergraduate experience. However, the proportion of students demonstrating proficiency or reporting “information-literate” practices varies with the type of proficiency or practice.