Tips for Planning Productive Research Literacy Sessions

Students learn research skills best when a library session is tied to a course assignment. As you develop assignments, please remember that your consulting librarian is available to help your students learn skills and strategies to improve their academic research.

Preparing an assignment

  • Let students know the purpose of the assignment. Why are you asking them to do this? What will they learn from completing it?
  • Be specific.  Let students know what you expect to see: how long the paper should be, what sources are acceptable to use, what style you want them to follow (APA, MLA, etc.). Examples or models  are very useful for students. 
  • Test the assignment beforehand. Be sure the resources you want them to use are available.  Remember that many first-year students are not familiar with how to use an academic library. 
  • Provide examples of scholarly journals. Many students are not familiar with the differences between scholarly research published in peer-reviewed journals, and articles from magazines aimed at a general audience. 
  • Provide students with citations rather than photocopies. If the article you want students to read is available in our collection (print or online) give them the citation and let them experience finding the article for themselves.
  • Practice the art of scaffolding: breaking down a large assignment into progressive steps that students can climb one at a time. This allows them to build on their experience.

Planning for a library session

  • Meet with your librarian early so that you have plenty of time to discuss the goals of your course and the purpose of your assignment. That gives the librarian time to tailor the instructional experience to your students’ needs.
  • Schedule your library session(s) at a point in semester when your students are ready to learn and can soon use the skills and concepts the librarian is teaching.
  • Information is best presented in manageable segments of time. Students retain information better in two 45-minute sessions than one 90-minute session, for instance. For tutorial students, a series of short, related writing assignments are recommended over one long paper due at the end of the semester.
  • Plan the session at a time when you can be present. Your participation indicates the importance you place on the library session. It also allows you to see first-hand how your students conduct research and what obstacles they encounter.
  • There are a variety of expressions for a student’s academic research. For examples, please see our sample research literacy assignments page.

Assessing the results

  • How do the students demonstrate what they’ve learned in the library session?   Graded research assignments, completed exercises from library sessions, or other methods can demonstrate if students have met your learning goals.
  • How effective was the library session?  Talk with your consulting librarian about ways to assess a session's impact. 

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