Best Practices for Research Instruction

The core mission of the library is to partner with you to help your students learn how to be effective researchers and consumers/producers of information. A first step in this partnership is the research instruction session (see Additional Support for Student Research for further possibilities). In our experience, the following best practices make for the most meaningful outcomes for the students. 

Research instruction sessions must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance.

Because the information landscape is constantly changing, we prepare for each and every research instruction session anew, every semester, tailoring it to your course assignment and using example topics that match what your students are studying. We also create customized LibGuides for every course we teach, and we link them to your course in canvas. That all takes time. 

Course assignments and/or the syllabus should be provided at the time of scheduling.

Research instruction sessions must correspond to an assignment or project in the course. We need to have a copy of that assignment so that we can tailor our learning objectives directly to your goals. We do not do "general overviews of library research" as such a thing is meaningless in today's information landscape. 

The timing of research instruction sessions matters!

Research instruction sessions should be delivered after students are familiar with the assignment, have chosen topics, and are ready to begin research.  Research instruction at the beginning of the semester for a project that isn't due until the end of the semester is often unwise, unless there are scaffolded goals for the project throughout the semester, such as requiring works cited or annotated bibliographies early in a project (which we highly recommend). Students who are already invested in their topic and see a deadline in the near distance can make the most of our sessions,  as we always leave hands-on time for students to get started on their research. 

Faculty should be present during the instruction session.

While the librarian is able to answer specific questions about the research available on student topics, faculty are needed to answer assignment specific questions.  Students often only realize these assignment specific questions as they begin working through the research.  Students understand the importance of research instruction when faculty also demonstrate that it matters by actively participating in the session.  

We can help you design research assignments that will have the most impact.

The librarians can help design a research component for your course that is at an appropriate level. It is not always necessary to require a research paper, or to require the use of only academic journals. Lower level students benefit from exercises in evaluating the usefulness and credibility of all types of information. Upper level students may need lessons on how to read an academic research paper as well as how to find them. We have more than 30 years of experience between us, ask us for guidance!


(adapted from the best practices guidelines at UC Santa Barbara and Bergen Community College)