Librarians collaborate with faculty to help students gain vital research skills

In an era of social media, disinformation, and fake news, helping students learn how to evaluate information is more important than ever. While the University’s Core Curriculum teaches undergraduates to critically examine texts, survey responses indicate that students also need help learning to identify, assess, and use sources beyond the syllabus. Librarians are available to work with faculty to design tailored assignments and resources that teach research skills that meet course-specific objectives.

Survey results indicate the value of Library instruction

Librarian Rebecca Starkey with 3 students working on laptops.

Rebecca Starkey, Librarian for College Instruction and Outreach (standing), works with students to enhance their research skills. (Photo by Jason Smith)

In 2017, the Library conducted a survey of undergraduates in order to learn more about their experiences at UChicago. Results demonstrated that students expect to have opportunities to conduct original research while at the University and believe that the research skills developed at UChicago will be essential for their future careers. Once here, however, respondents were uncertain who on campus had responsibility for helping them develop the skills needed to successfully find and use information.

Fortunately, survey responses clearly indicated that Library instruction positively affects students’ perceptions of their research skills. While only 38% of survey respondents reported having attended a library program or orientation, those who received this instruction consistently gave higher ratings to their abilities to evaluate academic sources, make ethical use of information, and form evidence-based conclusions than did those who had not received such training. Respondents who had participated in Library programs were also less likely to start their research with general search engines and nearly twice as likely to begin at the Library’s website.

Librarians create course-specific resources for faculty

University of Chicago librarians have experience collaborating with faculty and instructors to design programs, assignments, or course-specific resources that help students meet learning objectives while improving their research skills. Below are some examples of ways the Library can help:

  • Humanities students are asked to locate a review article about an art exhibition, theater performance, or film. A librarian teaches students how to locate review articles, highlighting the differences between academic sources with those in newspapers and magazines. The class also learns how to critically evaluate arts blogs and websites.
  • For a public policy class studying immigrant communities in Chicago, a librarian teaches students how to find U.S. Census data for neighborhoods.
  • For a psychology course focusing on adolescent mental health, librarians create an online guide to help students locate studies on the impact of anti-bullying programs on teenage suicide.

If you are interested in exploring options for your course, contact Rebecca Starkey, Librarian for College Instruction & Outreach at rstarkey@uchicago.edu.

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