St. Olaf Libraries

Planning for Research Instruction

How to get the most out of research instruction?

Here's what works best:

  • scheduling a research session strategically
    • will your students have enough time to accomplish assignment if they need to tap into Interlibrary Loan?
    • is the session occuring at the point of need?
  • sharing research assignment(s) with librarians well in advance so that we can prepare fully
    • what are your goals for the session?
    • what resources/scholarship/methodology should be emphasized?
    • do the assignment and library resources complement each other?
  • sharing your expectations of what students should learn in a session
    • what are the vital research skills/strategies/concepts students should acquire?

What can we cover?

The array of skills and concepts we can cover in a session is shaped by you and your assignment. This page lists some ideas to consider, and an approximate amount of time to cover a concept.

Please remember that we can't cover it all effectively in one fifty-minute class!

Take a look at different instruction models as an alternative to one-shot session.

Overviews and Introductions

  1. How is knowledge generated and organized by specific disciplines?
  2. Which voices need to be considered for this project: scholars? the general public? journalists? government?
  3. What categories of resources would provide access to these voices?
  4. How does one organize a research process for a particular project?

(The length of time would vary depending on importance for the instructor and the assignment.)

Ideas for Specific Concepts and Skills

  1. Will your students need to select and narrow a topic? (10-30 minutes)
    • brainstorming a topic based on assignment criteria
    • identifying keywords, synonyms, and controlled vocabulary on their topic
    • browsing relevant resources for background information
    • articulating a research question or thesis statement
  2. Will students be using library catalogs (local and/or beyond) to do searches on their topic? (10-30 minutes)
    • searching for books/media by words/phrase vs subject
    • finding relevant subject links
    • interpreting results lists, marking and saving relevant items
    • using advanced search functions to manipulate publication format, date, language, etc.
    • using call numbers to locate items on library shelves
    • requesting material from Carleton
    • requesting material from other libraries via ILL
    • recognizing e-resources (e-books, web resources) within catalogs
  3. Will students be required to distinguish between primary vs secondary materials? (10-30 minutes)
    • definining primary and secondary sourcse
    • developing strategies to locate primary materials
    • discussing the contributions of primary and secondary literature to disciplinary knowledge building
  4. Will students need to identify and search relevant research databases effectively? (15-60 minutes)
    • determining the nature and scope of literature indexed
    • searching with natural language keywords and phrases
    • using the database thesaurus or controlled vocabulary to search
    • evaluating results lists for relevance
    • checking for full-text availability and making ILL requests
    • revising search strategies for related or more focused results
    • marking, e-mailing, exporting, saving, and printing results
  5. Will students need to understand the difference between scholarly and popular publications? (10-20 minutes)
    • discussing scholarly vs popular publishing procedures
    • determining the scope, purpose, and target audiences
  6. Will students need to identify and evaluate scholarly and/or popular Internet resources? (15-30 minutes)
    • recognizing and distinguishing between fee-based vs free websites
    • using advanced Google search
    • analyzing Internet site organization and search capabilities
    • determining the scope, audience, and currency of information
    • determining the authority, accuracy, and objectivity of sources
    • analyzing the relevance of information for an information need
  7. Will students need to learn how to track down scholarship featured in bibliographies and references? (10-20 minutes)
    • recognizing which elements of citation to use for tracking purposes
    • choosing an appropriate venue to locate cited materials (catalogs, periodical list, Google, etc.)
  8. Will students need to learn about documentation and plagiarism? (10-20 minutes)
    • recognizing elements of a citation
    • distinguishing book, article, and media citations in various styles
    • understading why citations differ from style to style
  9. Will students be required to use bibliographic manager software to manage information? (15-60 minutes)
    • becoming familiar with the capabilities of EndNote
    • learning to export and import citations from licensed databases and catalogs
    • creating records for resources not included in licensed databases and library catalogs
    • editing records and creating annotations
    • formatting bibliographies
  10. Will students need to know the physical layout of Rolvaag/Science/Music library? (10-30 minutes)
    • becoming comfortable with finding physical reference materials, periodicals, DVDs, etc.
    • developing a sense of how materials are shelved
    • learning about service points (circulation, reserves, reference, writing, IIT)

What model should you choose?

Possibilities are endless, and we'd love to experiment with you!

Brief Sessions

We are happy to pop in at strategic points in the research project sequence! The visit can take any shape or form--from clarifying a concept or research tool to diving into 10-15 minutes of hands-on database search.

Full Sessions

  • One focused session:

    Reference librarians spend a class period walking your students through the research process centered on the assignment. You can tap into multiple variations here:

    • lecture-type class
    • hands-on session in a lab
    • quizzes for your students to accomplish
    • any combination of the above

    Please note that adding hands-on activities requires more time (a great design for a longer class session!)

    For each assignment, your instruction librarian creates a research guide that incorporates essential resources and tools your students need to handle the project successfully. Peek here for examples of course-specific reseach guides.

  • Multiple full sessions:

    Librarians visit your class multiple times with assignment(s) in between. Again, we can engage your students in hands-on research whenever it makes sense.