The Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project is a two-year study of the student research process. The project is funded by an LSTA grant awarded to Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) by the Illinois State Library. The goal of the project is to understand how students do research, and how relationships between students, teaching faculty and librarians shape that process. ERIAL is also an applied study—that is, research pursued with the purpose of uncovering, understanding and addressing social problems. As such, its goal is to use the results to develop more user-centered library services.