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NCompass Live: Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides


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NCompass Live - March 9, 2016.

Librarians put hours into creating research guides, but usage studies show that they're often confusing, intimidating and generally under-used by students. Learn some effective techniques of instructional design and web usability that any librarian can apply to make online guides better and more useful to your students, whether you are using LibGuides or a home-brew system.

Presenter: Jason Puckett of Georgia State University is the author of the new book Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides from ACRL Publications.

Published in: Education

NCompass Live: Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides

  1. 1. Modern Pathfinders Making research guides more effective Jason Puckett Georgia State University Library NCompass Live, March 9 2016
  2. 2. About me Librarian for Communication and Computer Science, Virtual Services Librarian GSU, Atlanta Continuing education instructor, Simmons Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides (2015) Zotero: a Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Educators (2011) (2nd edition forthcoming, 2016)
  3. 3. Today’s session Will be • Instruction/public service POV • Informal/interactive • Biased toward academic libraries Will not be • How to use LibGuides • Overly techy • Systems librarian POV
  4. 4. What’s a research guide • Web page created by librarians for library users as an aid to their research • Addresses a specific information need • research guides, pathfinders, web guides, subject guides, LibGuides
  5. 5. What’s a research guide “Subject guides are lists of resources created to assist students with their research needs.” (Staley 2007) • Teaching tools • Access points • Substitute for class • Contact point w/librarian
  6. 6. What do you use? • LibGuides • Library a la Carte • Wiki-based system • Home-grown system • Don’t have research guides • Other?
  7. 7. Rethinking your guides • Not just a list of links • Approach guide creation like class planning • Guides as teaching tool • Think like a student • Focus on the assignment/task • Don’t overload • Design matters
  8. 8. Design • Instructional design • User Experience (UX) design
  9. 9. Learning objectives • No more “how to use the library” • Specific • Measurable • Results-oriented • Need-focused
  10. 10. Learning objectives: Why? • Teaching aid/outline • Findability (by search and eye) • Relevance to students • Instructor buy-in
  11. 11. Learning objectives •What am I teaching in class OR •What would I teach if I had them in class
  12. 12. Learning objectives • “Students should be able to…” • locate newspapers to use as a historical primary source • distinguish between scholarly and non-scholarly sources • create a literature review on their topic • install Zotero • Avoid “understand” and synonyms
  13. 13. Tailor to the assignment Examples
  14. 14. Don’t recreate the library website (The library already has a website. This isn’t it.) • TMI -> confusion • Extra work/updates
  15. 15. Curated content • A selected subset of the info on the library site • Selected resources specific to the task at hand • Plus subject specialist expertise
  16. 16. Subject guides vs course guides • “students do not connect with general subject guides, but do find use for guides that are focused on specific courses” • “presenting sources based on a discipline was not helpful for students as the students did not understand what a discipline really was”1 • “course management systems … create learning environments tailored specifically to the needs of the students enrolled in a course” • “undergraduate students’ mental model is one focused on courses and coursework, rather than disciplines”2 1Roberts, S., & Hunter, D. (2011). New Library, New Librarian, New Student: Using LibGuides to Reach the Virtual Student. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 5(1/2), 67-75. doi:10.1080/1533290X.2011.570552 2Reeb, B., & Gibbons, S. (2004). Students, Librarians, and Subject Guides: Improving a Poor Rate of Return. Portal : Libraries and the Academy, 4(1), 123-130.
  17. 17. Cognitive Overload •Avoid TMI •“Chunk” your content into manageable pieces •Keep links to a minimum
  18. 18. Reducing choices • Too many options = overwhelming • Minimize distraction/digressions • Minimize clutter
  19. 19. Write for your audience • Think like a student • Organizing by format makes sense to librarians • Organizing by assignment/task makes sense to students • Compare the assignment to the guide
  20. 20. Write for your audience • Think like a student • Avoid jargon • Consistent terminology • Conversational style • Get a fresh eye • Concise and scannable text • Annotate clearly • What will they need to know?
  21. 21. ______ ___ ___ ___Writing for the web “The format is very clear and neat. The first two [guides] just make me feel dizzy. Too many words on it – very messy.” – student response to LibGuides (Hintz et al)
  22. 22. ______ ___ ___ ___Writing for the web • Minimal text • Lists, not text blocks • Web readers skim • Critical content above the fold • Avoid “click here.” Users know links when they see them • Use emphasis sparingly • Good style guides from Yahoo: • • text-online-reading
  23. 23. Writing for the web Click here to access America: History and Life, a database that includes articles that may be useful to you as secondary sources. Search America: History and Life to find articles useful as secondary sources.
  24. 24. Writing for the web • Web readers skim: the F shape • Above the fold
  25. 25. User experience (UX) Attractive objects work better in stressful situations Decrease effort spent understanding the page Free up mental “bandwidth” to focus on content
  26. 26. Reworking a guide
  27. 27. Before • • Big text block • Past the fold • Organized by format • Start page
  28. 28. Reworking a guide
  29. 29. After • • Organized around assignment • Directly based on learning objectives/class session • Vertically shorter (but still above the fold) • First page directly into content • Text is more concise/skimmable to locate needed info
  30. 30. Visual design for non-designers • Web pages are not print pages • Less is more • Simplicity and consistency matter
  31. 31. Design and why it matters Hintz, K., Farrar, P., Eshghi, S., Sobol, B., Naslund, J.-A., Lee, T., Stephens, T., et al. (2010). Letting students take the lead: A user- centred approach to evaluating subject guides. Evidence based library and information practice, 5(4), 39-52.
  32. 32. Design and why it matters Colors: simple and consistent Images can direct attention
  33. 33. Entry points and focal areas • Eye doesn’t go naturally to text • Squint! • Secondary focal areas Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt.
  34. 34. Institutional style guides • The content matters more than the container, but the container matters • Consistency • Readability • Familiarity • Visual style • Content guidelines • Flexibility for creators
  35. 35. Institutional style guides “The goal here should be that once a person has used one of your library’s guides, they intuitively know how to use all your library’s guides because each guide follows a similar structure, even though the content varies widely.” (Ahmed 2013 p. 109)
  36. 36. Recommended Reading • Ahmed, N. (2013). Design: Why it is important and how to get it right. In A. W. Dobbs, R. Sittler, D. Cook, & Library and Information Technology Association (U.S.) (Eds.), Using LibGuides to Enhance Library Services: A LITA Guide (pp. 103–119). • Bielat, V., Befus, R., & Arnold, J. (2013). Integrating LibGuides into the teaching-learning process. In A. W. Dobbs, R. Sittler, D. Cook, & Library and Information Technology Association (U.S.) (Eds.), Using LibGuides to Enhance Library Services: A LITA Guide (pp. 121– 142). • Dewald, N. H. (1999). Transporting good library instruction practices into the web environment: An analysis of online tutorials. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 25(1), 26–31. doi:10.1016/S0099-1333(99)80172-4 • Little, J. J. (2010). Cognitive load theory and library research guides. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 15(1), 53–63. • Reeb, B., & Gibbons, S. (2004). Students, librarians, and subject guides: Improving a poor rate of return. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 4(1), 123–130. • Roberts, S., & Hunter, D. (2011). New Library, New Librarian, New Student: Using LibGuides to Reach the Virtual Student. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 5(1/2), 67–75. doi:10.1080/1533290X.2011.570552 • Schmidt, A., & Etches, A. (2012). User experience (UX) design for libraries. Chicago: ALA TechSource. • Staley, S. M. (2007). Academic subject guides: A case study of use at San José State University. College & Research Libraries, 68(2), 119–139. • University of New Mexico School of Medicine. (2005). Effective use of performance objectives for learning and assessment.
  37. 37. Discussion/questions Thank you Available at and ACRL Publications 2015