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Monday Musings: The Research Roadmap

Monday, June 13, 2011

One of my big products at work this past week was creating a new tutorial video for our online orientation classes . Between the ongoing refinement of my research skills and preparing for a couple of presentations this summer, I’ve been thinking about the research process a LOT lately, even by librarian standards. At the same time, the tutorials I created soon after I finished my MLIS are really starting to show their age, even with updating screen shots and such every 1-2 years, and I and another staff member are going to rebuild them from scratch next month. The existing tutorials do an okay (and necessary) job of walking students through the mechanics of searching databases, logging into ezproxy from home, permalinks, etc. However, they assumed that students knew both the topic they wanted to research and the basics of how to organize their research process into a strategy.  In theory students pick up those skills in comp one, or even in high school. But in practice…yeah. Besides, review never hurt anyone, and even as a librarian/doctoral student, I’m learning new tricks all the time.

 To that end, we’ve put together a new video that covers the 5 basic steps of the research process, as we’ve conceived of them, and which focuses on research strategy, source evaluation, and paper organization rather than the nuts and bolts of searching (though we link to about a half-dozen of our earlier tutorials that will teach them just that). It’s more of a lecture than a pont-of-need tutorial, so I felt comfortable making it a bit longer—it clocks in at a little under 20 minutes. My thought right now is that this video will serve double duty. First, the online sections of our college orientation and comp classes will use it and the linked tutorials as their equivalent to F2F library instruction. Second, it can be sent to more advanced classes before we visit them as prep work. That way, when we come in to do an instruction session for upper-division students, we can start from the assumption that (in theory) everyone has at least been exposed to the basics, and we can really dig into the meat of using the best sites and resources for their coursework, as well as the source evaluation concerns specific fields like business that use trade publications more heavily than Peer-reviewed journals, or historians and political science students who need to learn how to dig into government documents and primary sources.

 If we’re going to be promoting our expertise as equivalent to other terminal-degreed instructors on campus, then we need to be prepared to move beyond basic point-and-click tutorials into developing theories and pedagogies that give students a full understanding of the library-related aspects of information literacy that can be incorporated into their subject-related knowledge. Providing this instruction empowers students to perform more rigorous research, and allows faculty members to focus less on basic skills and more on their subject matter. In other words, Deving more deeply into the strategies of integrating information literacy into curriculum can be a win-win. It’s also something you can learn how to do from all of this year’s presenters at unCOILed 2011: Get Schooled! (hint, hint)

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