Students conducting research in upper-level courses are developing familiarity with the conventions and shape of the conversation within the discipline. They should also become familiar with specialized sources used within the discipline. Our assessment plan (pdf) outlines goals for all students; students in upper level courses will be able to identify key research tools, locate high quality sources, articulate salient elements of research within their discipline, and use sources effectively as they enter the scholarly conversation.
Students are fully capable of developing a sense of how scholarly research is reported and how to construct a good research project. However, undergraduates must spend far more time than experts in gaining enough background knowledge to find a focus for a research project. They also have understandable difficulty assessing the value of different sources, not being familiar with the prominent scholars in the field and its major publications. It's a good idea to scaffod assignments with multiple check points.
Don't assume students learned how to use the library in the FTS. What they learned was limited, may have been forgotten, or may not take into account recent changes in the library.
Students tell us they learn by doing and they learn from the models provided by their professors. The most important predictor of students' success in finding, reading, and using sources is the number of times they engage in those activities. The librarians are happy to discuss assignments you are designing.
In addition to struggling to varying degrees with the issues they faced as first year students, students beyond the first year engage in several common research behaviors. They tend to do the following things.
Another great option is to advise your students to take NDL 301: Information Fluency. The course is designed as an overall introduction to information sources and a chance for students to explore the structure of the literature in their chosen field.
One of the problems students have with scholarly forms of documentation is that they rarely understand its rhetorical power. They think of documentation defensively, to prevent being charged with theft - as opposed to thinking of sources as expert witnesses brought in to lend support to an argument. One approach to avoid plagiarism is to create plagiarism-proof assignments. Another is to engage students in using references in their research. The practice will make more sense once they've learned to read other's references as an effective research strategy.
Students have little experience reading or writing documented prose. They often view documentation as a meaningless chore and don't recognize its rhetorical power. On top of that, some students take shortcuts that are simply not acceptable. Be sure to encourage your students to use the excellent assitance provided at our Writing Center; they may also ask for help citing sources at the reference desk, where we keep copies of the major style manuals.
1. Emphasize process by building a sequence of assignments
Helps unpack the research process into a series of steps; provides scaffolding for organization and time management; shows work in progress rather than simply a finished product; helps students focus on research as process not product; helps you intervene earlier when a student has problems.
Logistically challenging in terms of processing the paperwork that results, may require more time than you have available.
2. Emphasize originality by asking students to do something they can't get "off the shelf"
Gives students a sense of owning their work that they don't get when the paper is based entirely on interpreting other people's work.
Can be time-consuming to develop and test assignments to be disaster-proof. Also prevents wholesale copying of a text, but doesn't address problems of inappropriate paraphrase or failure to cite a source.