Teaching scholarly research skills

Many of my fellow history professor colleagues and I have discussed our struggles to convince students to search the university library instead of Google. I get it–Google is often my first stop when I’m trying to find an answer. But the Google habit is hard to break; even when we or our subject area librarians demonstrate how to search the library catalog, students still go back to Google. How do we change this? I posed the question and got a range of great answers on Twitter, which I’ve collated here.

(You can read the entire thread at this link).

Focus on the sources and analysis, not the research

“Curating a large resource list that squares nicely with what they are studying and basically requiring any source outside of that list to be approved in writing (email) by me. Since I can deprioritize the building of “library/archive research” skills, this is how I encourage the practice of using academic sources.” @calhistorian

Use a better version of Google

“Teach them to use Google Scholar – It’s probably hooked up with your library catalog – It feels like Google – but your students will find scholarly articles. Might ease them in to using other library databases, etc.” @ifrank

Grading and assignments

“Do college library-based research and part of the grade would be recounting what they did and how it went. And/or a scaffolded group work step (get into groups and search for each others’ topics)”—Katie Uva

“After introducing them to good sources & search techniques in class or library workshops, I require them to document their search process as part of a grade (I went to Jstor & searched “Texas” AND “slavery.” Then I…).”—Brian Franklin

“I usually have to tell them directly to do so. Including a link to these databases help on Canvas. “Make sure you search JSTOR,” tends to work as well.”—Daniel Gullotta

Integrating research into class sessions

“Use the last minute of class to show students how to use the library website to find the next class’s readings.”—Joseph Stuart

“Incorporate these searches into your classes(today we are talking about Tammany Hall- if I was looking for other research on this topic I would search these terms on jstor) and do it on the overhead computer-the demonstration and repetition will help”—Emily Brooke

“I like to “follow the footnote” during a planned reading assignment and show them how they could access that source via the library.”—Chelsea Gibson

Encountering sources

“What is a Scholarly Source? Session. 1) Discuss definitions of monograph, journal article, edited collection, primary source, textbook, popular press history book, historical fiction, book reviews, etc. 2) Discuss peer review, academic presses, oer, footnotes, then bring real hard copy examples of each. Pass em around. Students take a “quiz.” Students like it. Makes source differences real. Helps with on-line searches. Encourages them to go to the stacks.”—Heidi Keller-Lapp

“Have them locate and check out a book on a topic of interest (ideally something which can be relevant the whole semester). Have them spend the semester with the book, reading carefully, finding articles mentioned in its footnotes, etc.”—Brent S. Gordon, SJ

“I’ve required office visits to include bringing physical books from our library.”—Jason Dormady

Scavenger hunts

“”Search and Share” assignments. Ask them to look for something in a particular database and report back on it in class/online etc.”—Kelly Black

“I brought a basket of different types of books, one for each student. They had to look up the author, the press, find the year of publication, etc. to identify if it would be a useful source for a class like ours then they had to see if our library has a copy.”—Blair Stein

“The scavenger hunts (often with a bit of extra credit as a prize) help them to figure out and utilize specific library resources (including databases). I also have guided in-class activities that force them to locate sources on library databases, which helps w/final project.”—Jacqueline Beatty

“Research topic specific scavenger hunt: oldest book, shortest book, sources by … BIPCO…”–Elle Van Dermark

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