8 Association of Research Libraries Research Library Issues 290 2017 Conceptual Framework We used Astin’s input-environment-output model as our conceptual framework given its relevance to the research design.17 The “inputs” within this model include students’ pre-college characteristics, experiences, and demographics. The environment includes experiences during higher education and the outputs include students’ self-reported development of critical thinking and analytical skills, written communication skills, and reading comprehension skills. Inputs can have an effect on both environmental experiences and outcomes, which is why we entered these variables in our statistical models. In order to test the potential impact of environmental experiences, it is important to consider the direct effects of input variables on outcomes while also examining the potential effects those input variables have on the environmental variables. In the case of students’ use of academic libraries, for instance, self-selection bias may contribute to systematic differences between students who use library resources and those who do not use the same library resources. To reduce self-selection biases, educational researchers use quasi- experimental designs in their analyses. In most experimental studies, researchers randomly assign participants to a control group or a treatment group to better test the effects of the treatment however, such randomization is not often possible in educational settings. It would be unethical, for instance, to prohibit the use of academic library resources to students who may be randomly assigned to a control condition. Quasi-experimental techniques can simulate the characteristics of experimental designs by matching groups of students based upon demographic variables or other observable characteristics, with the only differences between these students the type of “treatment” received (e.g., using academic libraries).18 The resultant effects of such steps can help researchers to better estimate the effects of “treatments” on outcomes with a greater degree of accuracy. Therefore, in the present study, we utilized
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