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Teaching Research to First-Year Students: Stumbling Blocks

Common Student Research Behavior

Students need help and guidance as with many key aspects of research. They tend to have...

  • difficulty choosing and reformulating good search terms for topics that are unfamiliar.

  • difficulty selecting their best bets out results of a search.

  • difficulty skimming a source to decide if it will be useful or not.

  • a tendency to seek a good quote (and stop reading as soon as it's found) rather than read an entire article and look for its main point. 

  • an unwillingness to invest time in learning a new approach to research when they're certain they'll find something online.

  • a conviction that everyone else knows how it works - and admitting they don't is embarrassing.

They also tend to...

  • use the same database they've used in the past, even if it is not the best database for the subject.

  • often do not do the work to track down hard copies of material, whether books on the shelf or hard copies of articles they find electronically through our databases or Google Scholar.

  • get caught up in finding a certain stated number of sources rather than finding the best sources that help them understand their topics

  • fear they will not find enough research materials for their projects

  • choose the first few sources that show up in the search results, no matter what

If we help students start this work in the first year, it will give them an excellent foundation for doing more sophisticated research throughout their college careers and beyond.

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