Answered By: Stephanie Folse
Last Updated: May 18, 2016     Views: 17

Purpose

Using the TCU Library can be an overwhelming experience for students new to Texas Christian University. Well-designed course-related library assignments are an effective way to introduce these students to library research and reduce their anxiety. Library assignments work best when instructors and librarians collaborate.

Checklist

The following checklist is meant to help ensure students have a positive library experience, reinforce library use as a means of learning, and help faculty design library assignments. A greater number of elements contained in a research assignment will increase students' chances of acquiring effective and transferable research skills.

  • Assign a variety of topics. Books, periodicals, and other resources can often be misplaced, lost, or mutilated when a large number of students are working on the same topic. Consider placing needed material on reserve (i.e., in-library reserve or online reserve). While using reserves helps, it does not completely alleviate the problem of a large numbers of students needing to use limited numbers at the same time.
  • Have a purpose. Structure assignments so students are required to find and evaluate or analyze information. One obvious way to do this is to have the assignment require them to make comparisons between two or more sources of information. Another method of critical analysis would be to have the student look at the potential impact of something or agree/disagree with a researched viewpoint.
  • Make it relevant. Tie the assignment to what is being discussed in class or to future assignments. Students will not be motivated to remember how they did their research or analyze the information found if it is not pertinent to the course.
  • Provide written instructions. Give students clear, precise written instructions. Students can frequently misunderstand, forget, or incorrectly write down an oral assignment. Library staff are often asked to interpret assignments or determine an instructor's intent.
  • Prepare library staff. Send a copy of the assignment to the Reference Desk or Ammie E. Harrison, Humanities and Theatre Librarian, at TCU Box 298400. You can include what you would prefer staff do, and not do, when helping your students in the library. This will also allow us to ensure the proper resources are available for your students to use.
  • Include a source list. Provide a list of appropriate resources for students to work from (i.e., subject encyclopedias, databases, reference sources). Refer students to the subject research guides available through many library web pages.

Other helpful practices

  • Check the library catalog to verify the accuracy of references given to students and make sure that the TCU Library owns the cited materials.
  • Schedule a library orientation session to introduce students to the library and its resources.
  • Refer students with research problems to the IC Reference Desk for a personal library instruction session.
  • Online library materials. Be careful when instructing students not to use the Internet or Web. The library catalog, most of our databases, and some other resources are only available through the Internet/Web.

Pitfalls

  • Scavenger hunts (busy work) tend to lack a clear purpose, teach the students little about doing research, and usually frustrate students. Librarians rather than the students frequently end up locating the answers.
  • Do not assume the students already know how to use the TCU Library. Not all incoming freshmen attended a library instruction session or a library orientation session during their first year.
  • Students may not refer to or cite a resource because the TCU Library does not own it. If given enough time, items can be placed on reserve or students can acquire a TexShare card from the library which affords check-out privileges at all university libraries in the Metroplex.

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