Here are some suggestions for instructors
that will help make your library research assignment a successful learning experience for
Most students have limited research experience.
A surprising number of students have never used the library
for anything except studying or reading Reserve materials. Most will need your guidance
and/or a librarians guidance to complete library research assignments. For
information about scheduling an instruction session for your students with a Library
faculty member, please see the Instruction Services page on
Check to see whether the library has the resources
your students will need.
It is frustrating for students to discover that they have to
arrange to go to another library to get the source that you want them to useand even
more frustrating to learn that they went to another library to use a source that is
readily available at URI! To check if the Library has a specific resource, please consult
the HELIN Library catalog or call the Reference Desk.
Explain the assignment clearlypreferably in
Specify what students are to do, define terms, and give
complete citations with call numbers for specific works. This will also help the
librarians understand what you want if the students come with questions about the
Teach research techniques.
Provide a written outline of steps involved in the research
assignment and a list of suggested sources. If you prefer not to, you may wish to invite a
Library faculty member to meet with your students during
your regular class time to teach research techniques and to discuss appropriate sources
for the assignment. For information about library instruction, please see the Instruction Services page on this website.
Encourage students to ask for help.
Libraries are complex institutions, each one a bit different
from the next. It is expected that students will need assistance, and library staff are
trained to provide that assistance.
Avoid the mob scene.
Dozens of students trying to use one book or article or trying
to locate the same piece of information usually leads to misplacement, loss, or mutilation
of library materials. Use the Reserve service where appropriate or warn Library faculty ahead of time about an assignment in a
Avoid scavenger hunts.
Searching for obscure facts without any guidance is
frustrating for students and teaches them nothing about doing research. Instead, scavenger
hunts become an exercise for reference librarians to perform.
Avoid arbitrary restrictions on sources students
For example, telling students to consult newspapersbut
not to use the Internetmight discourage a student from using the full-text online
newspapers to which the library subscribes; or, telling students to find periodical
articlesbut not to use computerswould prohibit the use of some of the most
important periodical indexes, many of
which are only available online. If you are concerned about your students ability to
evaluate the quality of information found on the Internet (a legitimate concern!), please
consider scheduling an instruction session with a librarian.
Consult with a librarian before making the
A librarian can advise you of the availability of library
resources, suggest appropriate library resources, point out potential problems with the
assignment, and in some cases order appropriate materials. If you anticipate a number of
your students coming to the Library and asking questions, as a courtesy, please leave a
copy of your assignment at the Reference Desk in advance or with a subject specialist so that we will be familiar with it by the
time your students come in.
Complete the assignment yourself before you assign
it to your students.
Theres nothing like a run-through to discover what
problems your students might encounter while working on your assignment. Does the library
still have the resource that you had students use last year? Sometimes subscriptions are
canceled, titles change, old sources are replaced by new ones. Can you find the needed
materials on the shelf or on the librarys Web site? While libraries rely on logical
systems to arrange their resources, every library is unique. Sometimes a specific item is
more difficult to find in one library than in another. Do your students need any
additional clues about where and how to access the sources they will need? By
completing your own assignment, step-by-step, you will discover anything that needs to be
clarified or changed.
If you have any questions about this page, or would like
further information, please contact Head of Reference Peter Larsen or Information Literacy
Librarian Mary MacDonald. Peter can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone
at (401) 874-4637. Mary can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at
You may also contact the subject specialist in your area. A
list of subject specialists is available on this site.
They can answer questions about...
- Your assignment.
- Print, non-print, and electronic resources that are
available to the University of Rhode Island community.
- Using University Library Reserves
- Accommodating an entire class using specific sources.
- Arranging for library instruction (a librarian meeting with
your class in a library classroom or your classroom during your regularly scheduled class
This page was adapted from a similar page created by
librarians at E.H. Butler Library at Buffalo State: State University of New York.