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Resources for Faculty: Teaching Inquiry

Working with First Year Students

Looking for tips on teaching research to first year students? We've got a guide for that! Our Resources for Teaching Research - First Years used to be a page on this guide, but grew so much that we created an entirely new guide. We'll be launching a sequel (Resources for Teaching Research - Upper Level Students) sometime during 2019-2020, but for now you can find materials on the "For 200 & 300 Level Courses" above.

What Librarians Do

In brief, we can -

Prepare a workshop session to help your students get started with a project.

Offer several sessions to build research skills in a course.

Develop online resource guides for a course or project.

Provide ideas for discipline-specific activities and tasks.

Meet with students by appointment or on a drop-in basis at the reference desk.

Provide a workshop on copyright and fair use.

Work with students on digital projects - websites, blogs, timelines, maps.

Work with you to brainstorm ideas about how to help students learn how information works.

Work with your department or program to discuss where these skills and concepts fall logically in your curriculum.

We also offer a .5 spring semester seminar course, NDL301: Information Fluency for students who want an in-depth introduction to how information works. This pairs well with capstone projects and is designed to give students going on to grad school preparation for using research libraries. 

Research Across the Curriculum

The library faculty is committed to ensuring that every student develops sophisticated research skills and attitudes.  While traditional library instruction sessions help students in specific classes learn the tools and skill to help them accomplish research tasks, the approach doesn't target all students.  Many students graduate without more than one or two library sessions.  Others express frustration that they've had over a dozen instruction sessions during their time at Gustavus and feel the approach is repetitive.  We seek to help all Gustavus students develop information literacy skills that will help them pursue lifelong learning and make them informed citizens. 

We will work with every department to help articulate the specific research skills and habits of mind we want students to have upon graduation.  Using assessment data collected by both the departments or programs and the library, we can identify student research strengths and weaknesses and create approaches to instruct students in systematic and comprehensive ways.  This approach insures that all students graduate prepared to gather, evaluate, synthesize and produce information in whatever field they pursue.

Our most developed approach on campus has been a semester-long library lab as part of POL 200: Analyzing Politics.  The lab grew out of a collaboration between Chris Gilbert & Kate Knutson in Political Science and Julie Gilbert in the Library.  Assessment data indicate that the lab has a high impact on student research skills, both during the time students are taking POL 200 and later in the major.  While this is just one possible approach, the lab can be tailored to fit other disciplines and is scalable for other departments and programs.

Use the resources on this page and on the rest of this guide to learn more about how we can collaborate to target student learning.  Please contact any of the library faculty to discuss research in your discipline further.

Library Instruction Sessions

Library instruction sessions are

  • One time or multiple sessions taught by a member of the library faculty, usually in the library
  • Structured to address specific learning outcomes related to an assigned research project
  • Good grouding for students, who typically need orientation to discipline-specific library resources & research techniques

We are happy to meet with your students more than once.  We’ve had notable success teaching multiple sessions for a single course, especially if students are doing advanced research and/or are struggling to find sources.

Feel free to contact Barbara Fister or your department liaison to talk further.  To see if one our labs is available, view the library's instruction calendar.

When's the best time to bring students in for a session? Right when they pick topics or later?

  • Sessions work best when students have topics they are researching.  Students are much more invested in the session when they see the direct benefit for them and have a topic they can use during class. This depends on the students & the project, however, so consult with a librarian for tips on timing your session.

Where do the session(s) happen?

  • Instruction sessions usually take place in the library’s eclassroom (seats 20, although we can squeeze more if necessary) or the smaller lab (seats 10).  We have also done sessions off site from time to time.

How far in advance should I schedule the session?

  • Generally, we’d prefer at least a week to prepare for the session(s), although we’ve worked with shorter notice from time to time.  Try to schedule the session(s) as far in advance as possible to avoid conflict with librarian & library classroom schedules.

There are six of you.  Who should I contact for a session(s)?

  • You are welcome to contact any librarian of your choice to lead the session. (We share instruction responsibilities.) You are not required to only work with your library liaison.  Starting with your library liaison can be beneficial, however, if you don’t know where to start.  Your library liaison will also have a strong sense of research materials in your area, as well as insight into the common issues students in your department face.

If I ask you for a session(s), aren’t I just adding to your workload?

  • Not at all!  Instruction sessions are part of our teaching load as faculty members.

Should I plan on being at the session(s)?

  • Sessions work well when students see your commitment.  When you are present and attentive, they pick up on the cues that this session is important.  For the most part, librarians welcome occasional interjections from you about specific research tools and tips.

Recommended Reading

A growing bibliography can be found at the Teaching Inquiry Zotero group.  

Places to start

Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2011. Highly recommended pracitcal advice for all disciplines. 

The New Digital Scholar: Exploring and Enriching the Research and Writing Practices of NextGen Students. Randall McClure and James Purdy, eds. Medford, NJ: ASIST, 2013. An edited volume that examines contemporary student information behaviors and provides ideas for both course and programmatic approaches to teaching undergraduates about how to write with sources. 

Project Information Literacy - a national study under way "to understand how early adults conceptualize and operationalize research in the digital age."

I Don't Have Time to Teach That: The Benefits of Faculty-Librarian Collaboration - this short article highlights several creative instruction approaches to strengthen student research skills.

Discussions of students' research processes and problems

Fister, Barbara. "The Research Processes of Undergraduate Students." Journal of Academic Librarianship 18.3 (July 1992): 163-169. Describes a small-scale study of strategies successful students used in their research. Concludes that successful students employ a variety of strategies to find a focus, use a process that integrates reading, writing and research recursively, and attend to rhetorical issues as they do their work.

Head, Alison J. "Information Literacy from the Trenches: How Do Humanites and Social Science Majors Conduct Academic Research?" College and Research Libraries 69.4 (September 2008): 427-445. A study of how students perceive the research process garnered through interviews and a survey. Though the common perception that students only use Internet sources was not borne out, students do have trouble gaining enough background knowledge to complete a task and have difficulty understanding assignment expectations.

Klein, Michael. "What is it We do when We Write Like This--And How can We Get Students to Join Us?" Writing Instructor (Spring/Summer 1987): 151-161. Describes research processes employed by scholars and constructs an interesting "hunting and gathering" duality for research strategies; opens with a hilarious dystopian vision of students working in "the night library."

Larson, Richard. "The 'Research Paper' in the Writing Course: A Non-Form of Writing." College English 44.8(December 1982): 811-816. A spirited critique of the "research paper" as a genre in the English composition classroom -- and a strong endorsement of authentic, discipline-based research experiences for undergraduates. Perhaps the most-cited classic paper on this topic.

Schwegler, Robert A. and Linda K. Shamoon. "The Aims and Process of the Research Paper." College English 44.8 (December 1982): 817-824. A companion piece to Larson (above) that lays out four different approaches: review of research, application of a theory, response to prior research, or testing of a hypothesis. Points out that students and their teachers view the purpose of research differently: "Students view the research paper as close-ended, informative, skills-oriented exercise written for an expert audience by novices pretending to be experts."

Nelson, Jennie. "The Research Paper: A 'Rhetoric of Doing' or a 'Rhetoric of the Finished Word'?" Composition Studies: Freshman English News 22.2 (Fall 1994): 65-75. Surveyed over two hundred first year student researchers and found most used a "compiled information" approach, gathering material and writing about it without formulating a focus. Only five percent of students used a complex, recursive strategy.

The Citation Project - an ongoing study of first year writers and how they use sources. Depressing but important findings. 

Valentine, Barbara. "Undergraduate Research Behavior: Using Focus Groups to Generate Theory." Journal of Academic Librarianship 19.5 (1993): 300-304. A depressing but not surprising student-centered view, in which research strategies focus on avoiding effort and gaining a grade; useful as a reality check.

Descriptions of specific assignments

Aspaas, Helen R. "Integrating World-Views and the News Media into a Regional Geography Course." Journal of Geography in Higher Education 22.2 (July 1998): 211-27. Describes how she teaches students to gain insight in African world-views by analyzing what African media say. Provides a series of assignments, beginning with two in-class sessions and progressing to more independent research projects and a paper.

Capossela, Toni-Lee. "Students as Sociolinguists: Getting Real Research from Freshman Writers." College Composition and Communication 42 (1991): 75-79. Engaging students in applied field research with a more or less simulated library component (i.e., assigned text to all students). Very adaptable to real library research, however.

Coon, Anne. C. "Using Ethical Questions to Develop Autonomy in Student Researchers." College Composition and Communication 40 (1989): 85-89. Series of assignments for a first-year class beginning with library research and progressing to primary research in a way that builds in recursivity.

Gredel-Manuele, Zdenka. "The Study of Family History: Research Projects in a Senior Seminar." Teaching History 16.1 (Spring 1991): 27-32. Detailed description of a semester-long project in collecting, analyzing and evaluating primary documents in family history and relating them to library research on ethnic groups' immigration history, etc.

Krest, Margie and Daria O. Carle. "Teaching Scientific Writing: A Model for Integrating Research, Writing and Critical Thinking." The American Biology Teacher 61.3 (March 1999): 223-227. Detailed, even charted, description of assignments for a freshman course, Introduction to Scientific Writing. Moves students through a series of assignments from abstracts and sections of lab reports, to reviews and proposals, research articles -- all keyed to goals for writing, research, and critical thinking skills.

 Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy 



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