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Teaching WRITL Courses: Teach Research with the Library

Library Partnerships

There are countless ways to partner with Library faculty members in order to teach students how to do college-level research well; these approaches also instill the skills and habits of mind for lifelong learning. You'll find a number of approaches here, ranging from fairly passive to more active. These approaches can be used separately or in combination. Please contact any librarian to discuss further. This kind of work is the core of what we do and we are here to help you and your students!

In addition to the resources on this page, you will want to consult the following guides for assignment ideas for teaching the research process and developing information literacy competencies in students.

For Your Students

  • Include the following language about Reference Services in your syllabus:
    • ​​Research Help - You can always get help with your research at the library. Reference librarians will help you find information on a topic, develop search strategies for papers and projects, search library catalogs and databases, and provide assistance at every step. Drop-ins and appointments are both welcome. Visit for hours, location, and more information.
  • Add your liaison librarian's contact information to your syllabus and encourage students to contact the librarian directly. 
  • Encourage your students to make use of Reference Services, including online research guides in their area of study
  • Refer students to reference librarians at any stage in the research process - students respond when you encourage them to visit with us! Bonus: you can refer students directly to reference librarians via Starfish.

Mission of the Library's Instruction Program

The library's support for student learning embraces classroom learning, individual consultations, the design of the library's physical and virtual spaces, and the curation and discovery of resources.

We seek to develop students’ understanding of information: where it comes from, how it circulates, how it can be interpreted, and how it can be created.

We foster students' disposition to inquire ethically and with an open mind in order to actively participate in the world as free human beings.

Our teaching is a collaboration with faculty in all departments and programs. While this kind of learning occurs in courses and experiences across campus, the library faculty strives to ensure all students have the opportunity to develop a nuanced understanding of information.

Assessing Research Competencies

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.

 Please contact any of the library faculty to discuss research in your discipline further.

For You

  • Consult with a librarian on your research assignments, including design and scaffolding
  • Arrange for a librarian to email your students with research tips related to their research projects throughout the semester
  • Request that a librarian create an online course guide for one (or more!) of your courses
  • Arrange for a librarian to teach ​an instruction session (or more!) during your class time to help your students do research for any given purpose. While these are often held in the main library classroom, we can also come to you. See the Library Instruction Sessions below for more information.
  • Hold ongoing conversations between your department or program and the Library to discuss how and where your students learn to do research within your curriculum and where these approaches can be improved. See Research Across the Curriculum below.

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 your department liaison to talk further.  To see if one our labs is available, view the library's instruction calendar.

Library Session FAQs

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.
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