Research Skills for the First Year


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  • As a librarian who works primarily with first year undergraduates at Tufts, I will focus my talk on the first encounters students have with the library and the challenges they face as they perform the research tasks required of them in their first research paper assignment
  • Tufts has no comprehensive formalized first year experience program so focusing our efforts on a partnership with the FYW program is our best opportunity to reach largest number of freshmenHow many first years end up taking FYW classes?Students can place out using AP English Language & Comp and/or Literature score of 4 or 5 or SAT Writing I score 760 or higher.In Fall 2010 a little over half of the freshmen class were enrolled in English 1 and 2 classes (700 out of 1300 students)In the fall we work with 80% of students enrolled in these English 1 & 2 classes
  • In “Closing the 12-13 Gap Together” Megan Oakleaf and Patricia Owen discuss a study conducted at North Carolina State University of syllabi from courses with enrolled freshmen for the purpose of identifying the information sources and research skills required of students during the first yearIn using this study as a model, we reviewed English 1 research paper assignments from the Fall 2006-Fall 2010 semesters to determine the research skills required of students in the first year writing program.Typical English 1 assignment themes – Take a stand on a current controversial issue, multidisciplinary issues surrounding things like climate change, and technology & media, etc.About 40% of surveyed assignments state that articles must be from library databases, seeing an increase in instructors requiring certain number of academic, scholarly or peer reviewed journal articlesCommon for instructors to require students to use at least 2-3 sources originally in print to limit use of websites
  • In 2002,Tisch Library developed a set of learning outcomes for students receiving library instruction through our partnership with the first year writing program. In preparation for our NEASC accreditation in 2013, we have recently updated these outcomes based on feedback from faculty, students, and librarians.The handout shows the most recent draft of these foundational learning outcomes. In the next part of my presentation, I’d like to discuss the challenges first year writing students face in meeting these learning outcomes.1st Challenge students face is feeling overwhelmed and even anxious by amount of resources and the variety of ways they can access these resources – currently on the Tisch website there are two options for finding books, 2 ways to look for electronic journals and hundred of databases to choose fromIn a feedback survey given to students after their research session at the library they said this [SEE COMMENTS IN TABLE]Instructors observations that [SEE TABLE COMMENT]; To prevent students from feeling overwhelmed their idea is to just have me show them a full-text ejournal collection like JSTOR to find everything they needFor librarians the challenge isDeciding which databases to show them, how much time to spend on catalog vs. database searching, do I show them new ways of searching (federated searching WorldCat localHow much do I pre-select for them without completely spoon-feeding them?WHAT WE’RE DOING TO HELP THEM WITH CHALLENGE OF MEETING THIS LEARNING OUTCOMELibguide with pre-selected databases and resourcesLIBRARY WIDE – RESDESIGNING WEBSITE BASED ON USABILITY STUDIES; MAKING HARD CHOICES ABOUT HOW MANY ACCESS POINTS TO OFFER (Federated Search, Different catalog versions, etc.)Overwhelmed by variety of research tools, databases, etc. and the wealth of information they might find – Two ways to search for books – Tufts Catalog and BLC Worldcat, 2 ways to look to see if we have an online subscription to a journal, different citation managers, etc. etc.Where should they search first on their topic – using course libguides to try to keep them from feeling overwhelmed; choose databases form them and provide easy access to them so there is more time to focus on finding quality sources for paperMore instructors interested in focusing English 2 session on the evaluation of sources/web sources
  • After learning how to construct a keyword search and retrieving articles in a library database students say they are confused by [SEE TABLE COMMENTS]LIBRARIAN CHALLENGEHelping students make the shift from their natural language Google search to boolean/keyword searching in the library databases and catalogShowing them the value of an index or abstract database and the limitations of a full-text e-journal collection like JSTORKeeping them from getting completely frustrated or overwhelmed so they’re not tempted to rely solely on their Google searchWays we’re dealing with this challenge in instructionHands-on activities on brainstorming, creating an effective keyword search phraseMore free hands-on time; research lab
  • More instructors interested in focusing English 2 session on the evaluation of sources/web sourcesMore instructors starting to require them to get only “academic sources” – scholarly journals and booksEnglish 2 assignment – have them look at websites related to their research topic and decide as a group if they would cite the source in their bibliographyBeing successful in helping students meet this learning outcome requires makes collaboration with the instructor particularly important as evaluation is a continuous part of the research and writing process
  • Will never forget the time where I told students that they could make a one-on-one appt with me for help and a student asked “Why would I want to make an appt with you? What can you do?”Library websites, database interfaces, constantly changing and new research tools coming done the pipeline – federated searching, worldcatlocal, electronic book collections, etc.. No way to be successful in keeping students up to speed with tools so instead provide them with the information literacy skills they need to deal with these toolsRespect for Authority – difficult in an age where a site like CNN blends their journalistic coverage, with viewers’ articles/videos to know who the experts are; students should learn that there are experts who have done real research, analysis of their topics and these types of sources should be sought out
  • Research Skills for the First Year

    1. 1. Beth Rohloff<br />Coordinator of First Year<br /> Library Instruction<br />Tisch Library @ Tufts University<br />Research Skills for the First Year<br />
    2. 2. Freshmen Firsts<br /><ul><li>First encounters with the library
    3. 3. First Year Writing Program
    4. 4. First college research paper
    5. 5. First year research skills</li></li></ul><li>First Year Writing Program & Library Instruction<br />Two semesters of college writing required for graduation: English 1 and English 2<br />Research paper is required assignment in both courses<br />About 80% of fall English 1 classes and 60% of spring English 2 classes participate in a one-shot library instruction session<br />
    6. 6. First Year Student Syllabus Study at NCSU<br />Survey of Tufts Eng 1 Research Paper Assignments<br />Assignment theme varies; common to allow students to choose their own topic<br />Average of 5-6 sources required for a 7 page paper<br />Rarely require or mention use of reference books<br />All require articles from journals, magazines, or newspapers<br />Less than 20% of assignments surveyed specifically require a book source<br />Limit use of websites by requiring certain number of print resources<br />Research Paper<br />Figure 6. Oakleaf, M., & Owen, P. (2010). Closing the 12-13 Gap Together: School and College Libraries Supporting 21st Century Learnears.” Teacher Librarian 37(4): 52-58.<br />
    7. 7. Learning Outcomes & Challenges<br />Being Aware of What Resources are Available<br />Thinking Critically about the Research Process: Aware of available collections spanning print, electronic, and digital media formats.<br />Searching and Retrieval Skills: Understands there are different databases available for different purposes/subjects, and that all databases do not provide the same depth of content<br />Challenges in Meeting Learning Outcomes<br />
    8. 8. Learning Outcomes & Challenges<br />Searching & Retrieval Skills<br />Constructing an effective search strategy for database and catalog searching.<br />Understands how to follow the trail from citations to full text retrieval.<br />Challenges in Meeting Learning Outcomes<br />
    9. 9. Learning Outcomes & Challenges<br />Resource Evaluation Skills<br />Evaluates sources for reliability, accuracy, authority, timeliness, point of view, etc.<br />Selects resources that meet requirements and best support a topic or argument.<br />Challenges in Meeting Learning Outcomes<br />
    10. 10. So what should students have in their “backpacks”?<br />Knowledge of what librarians do and how we can help them achieve academic success<br />Research concepts not tools<br />Respect for authority<br />
    11. 11. Questions?<br />Beth Rohloff<br />Coordinator of First Year Library Instruction<br />Tisch Library @ Tufts University<br /><br />617-627-6207<br />