Initial efforts to improve medical student information-seeking behavior with embedded library instruction




medical students, information literacy, searching behavior, information seeking, self-directed learning


Background: Medical students must develop self-directed information-seeking skills while they are learning vast amounts of foundational and clinical skills. Students will use different resources for different phases of their training. Information literacy training provided to students will be more impactful when it is embedded into courses or assignments that mimic real-world scenarios. The retention of these skills is also improved by early and frequent instruction sessions, paired with formative feedback from librarian-educators.

Case Presentation: Librarians received student responses to an information literacy question during two cycles of a Grand Rounds activity. Data were analyzed as follows: sources were grouped according to resource type and assessed for quality, and search terms were aggregated and analyzed to determine frequency of use. A librarian-educator presented the compiled data, making suggestions for improving searching and clarifying expectations for how to improve their resource choices for a second Grand Rounds session. Comparing the M2 Grand Rounds case to the M1 case of the same cohort, the frequency of evidence summary and diagnostic tool use increased and the frequency of search engine, textbook/lecture material, and journal article/database use decreased.

Discussion: In the real-world application of back-to-back Georgetown University’s Medical Center Grand Rounds exercises, librarian-led instruction on clinical-specific resources appears to be correlated with an improvement in medical students’ searching behavior. This trend supports the argument that introducing students early to librarian-led education on clinical-specific resources, and providing feedback on their searches, improves students’ information-seeking behavior.


Kumar S, Edwards ME. Information literacy and embedded librarianship in an online graduate programme. Journal of information literacy 2013 May 26,;7(1). DOI: 10.11645/7.1.1722.

Richardson JE, Bouquin DR, Tmanova LL, Wright D. Information and informatics literacies of first-year medical students. J Med Libr Assoc 2015 Oct;103(4):198-202. DOI: 10.3163/1536-5050.103.4.008.

Minchow RL. Changes in Information-Seeking Patterns of Medical Students: Second-Year Students' Perceptions of Information Management Instruction as a Component of a Problem-Based Learning Curriculum. Medical Reference Services Quarterly. 1996;15(1):15-40. doi:10.1300/J115V15N01_02.

Knowles MS. Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. New York, NY: Association Press, 1975.

Liu T, Sullivan AM. A story half told: A qualitative study of medical students' self-directed learning in the clinical setting. BMC Med Educ 2021 Sep 15;21(1):494-3. DOI: 10.1186/s12909-021-02913-3.

O'Carroll AM, Westby EP, Dooley J, Gordon KE. Information-seeking behaviors of medical students: A cross-sectional web-based survey. JMIR medical education 2015 Jun 29,;1(1):e4. DOI: 10.2196/mededu.4267.

LCME standards, publications, & notification forms [Web document]. [cited May 24, 2023].

Ricotta DN, Richards JB, Atkins KM, Hayes MM, McOwen K, Soffler MI, Tibbles CD, Whelan AJ, Schwartzstein RM, (on behalf of Millennium Conference 2019 writing group). Self-directed learning in medical education: Training for a lifetime of discovery. Teach Learn Med 2022;34(5):530-40. DOI: 10.1080/10401334.2021.1938074.

Nicholson J, Kalet A, van der Vleuten C, de Bruin A. Understanding medical student evidence-based medicine information seeking in an authentic clinical simulation. Journal of the Medical Library Association 2020 Apr;108(2):219-28. DOI: 10.5195/jmla.2020.875.

Thomas D, Hardi A, Dufault C. Providing information-seeking skills feedback within a medical school curriculum: A partnership between librarians and education specialists. Medical reference services quarterly 2020 Jan 02;39(1):27-34. DOI: 10.1080/02763869.2020.1688622.

Hill M, Peters M, Salvaggio M, Vinnedge J, Darden A. Implementation and evaluation of a self-directed learning activity for first-year medical students. Med Educ Online 2020 Dec;25(1):1717780. DOI: 10.1080/10872981.2020.1717780.

Thistlethwaite JE, Davies D, Ekeocha S, Kidd JM, MacDougall C, Matthews P, Purkis J, Clay D. The effectiveness of case-based learning in health professional education. A BEME systematic review: BEME guide no. 23. Med Teach 2012;34(6):421. DOI: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.680939.

Pettersson J, Bjorkander E, Bark S, Holmgren D, Wekell P. Using scenario-based training to promote information literacy among on-call consultant pediatricians. J Med Libr Assoc 2017 Jul;105(3):262-7. DOI: 10.5195/jmla.2017.79.

Burgess A, Matar E, Roberts C, Haq I, Wynter L, Singer J, Kalman E, Bleasel J. Scaffolding medical student knowledge and skills: Team-based learning (TBL) and case-based learning (CBL). BMC Med Educ 2021 Apr 26;21(1):238-3. DOI: 10.1186/s12909-021-02638-3.

Maranda S, Harding B, Kinderman L. Evaluation of the long-term impact of a curriculum-integrated medical information literacy program. The journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association 2016 Dec 05,;37(3). DOI: 10.5596/c16-026.

Cooper AL, Elnicki DM. Resource utilisation patterns of third-year medical students. The clinical teacher 2011 Mar;8(1):43-7. DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-498X.2010.00393.x.

Twiss-Brooks AB, Andrade J, Ricardo, Bass MB, Kern B, Peterson J, Werner DA. A day in the life of third-year medical students: Using an ethnographic method to understand information seeking and use. Journal of the Medical Library Association 2017 Jan;105(1):12-9. DOI: 10.5195/jmla.2017.95.

Saparova D, Nolan NS. Evaluating the appropriateness of electronic information resources for learning. Journal of the Medical Library Association 2016 Jan;104(1):24-32. DOI: 10.3163/1536-5050.104.1.004.

Barr A. GUSoM grand rounds data [Web document]. .

Martin J. The information seeking behavior of undergraduate education majors: Does library instruction play a role? Evidence based library and information practice 2008 Dec 13,;3(4):4. DOI: 10.18438/B8HK7X.

Duran-Nelson A, Gladding S, Beattie J, Nixon L. Should we google it? resource use by internal medicine residents for point-of-care clinical decision making. Academic medicine 2013 Jun;88(6):788-94. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31828ffdb7.






Case Report