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Library Instructional Services: Research Instruction Activities

Research Instruction Activities and Opportunities

What is a primary source?

Search for primary sources and discuss what constitutes a primary source in different disciplines.  Why and how are primary sources valuable?

Examples of primary sources: Diaries and Letters in the Library Stacks -- An Environmental Inventory of the Turtle Creek Project Area, South Beloit, IL, Beloit, WI -- An Essay on the Climate of Ireland (1831) -- Epaulet Color and Sexual Selection in the Red-Winged Blackbird: A Field Experiment by Ken Yasukawa

Un-Research Paper (source)

Students begin with a short paper using only their knowledge, whether it’s true or false. Then they begin library research on the topics. During the process of searching students will experience the evolution of their research question or thesis. By using prompts to find sources that support, add, and an inaccuracy students will begin to evaluate and articulate source material in a meaningful way.

Influential ideas and change

How do you trace an intellectual lineage?  How is a scholarly consensus formed and how does it change over time?  What sources does an author cite, and what later sources cite it?  

Disciplinary Approaches - Supporting Claims

Select and read an article (or book) related to the course topic and to your potential college major.  For example--

  • a source on India, the African diaspora, climate change, time, urbanization, etc.

  • written by an economist, anthropologist, biologist, artist, historian, etc.

Or as a class activity:  Each student finds a book and spends some time reading the table of contents, chapter headings, blurbs, etc. to determine how the discipline makes a contribution to the topic, looking at the focus and methods, what kinds of evidence is presented, the author's background, etc.  Students may want to find book reviews to help with their evaluation; Academic Search Premier is a good book review source.  There could be brief presentations to the whole class if time permits.

Using Zotero

Use Zotero to collect citations and articles for a research project. Download the Zotero Word plug-in and add parenthetical citations or footnotes as you write your paper. When finished, use the plug-in to generate a bibliography. Additional Zotero features, including notes, subcollections, and file storage can also be employed.

For group projects, librarians can demonstrate the use of Zotero group libraries to collectively manage citations.

Putting Texts into Context - Annotate a Text

Assign a passage of a text, a song lyric, a movie clip, etc., which refers to people, places, events, or other references that may not be familiar to most people.  Have students conduct research and write annotations explaining what these are.  Another option would be to annotate digital collection material ... letters, magazine articles, etc. Student research could be added to the collection records upon completion/assessment. 

Scholarship as Conversation

Hand out articles (or article first pages and have students find full copies).  The librarian makes sure the articles will work for this task-- Students will find one source cited in the article (retrospective) and one cited reference (taking the scholarship forward).  They will produce the first page of the 2 found works, either print-out or photo.  Also, they look over the 3 sources and write a paragraph describing briefly how the authors used each others' research (supporting evidence, contrary findings, research consensus, background, etc.)

Developing Questions

What do yearbooks, magazines, or advertisements show us about identity, ethnicity, valued achievements?

Students develop questions about the time, the intended audience, and other contexts of the publications. 

Citation Relay

An exercise to learn citation styles by working in pairs, then as a larger team. The teams race to correctly write citations on the board, and then pass the baton (marker) to the next pair. This exercise can be a combination of the 4 most used citations (MLA, APA, ASA, and Chicago) or one to allow for focus.

Beloit - History, Geography, Environment

Find examples of different types of maps of Beloit and Rock County.   Topics: purpose of maps, environmental change, demographic change, artistic elements, point of view.  See examples of local maps online and in the library.

Creating Research Questions and Search Terms

By utilizing this worksheet, which breaks down the steps of a research question, it allows for discussion around broad and narrow topics. Once a question is decided planning and logging potential search terms assists in demonstrating specific search phrases and how search terms will evolve.