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Integrating Library Resources into Your Course

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The strong collaboration between PWR and the Stanford Libraries is part of what makes the Stanford writing program unique among university writing programs and should be fostered in your classroom to provide students with a richer research experience.

Collaborating on the Library Workshops

All PWR 1 sections will be assigned a librarian who will lead a required library workshop for students that introduces them to important concepts related to research, search methodology, information literacy, source evaluation, and citation management; the workshop curriculum reinforces and builds on work that you already will be doing around these subjects in your classroom.  Library workshop dates tend to fall between weeks 3 and 5 of the quarter, corresponding to the time when students are developing their research questions and topics, collecting sources for their Texts in Conversation essay, and starting to think about their Research-Based Argument. Instructors always attend the library workshop with their students.

PWR-Librarian assignments are announced several weeks prior to the start of the quarter, so you have ample opportunity to collaborate with your librarian about how to best design the students' learning experience.  All instructors should communicate with their librarian -- via email or (preferably) in person -- to plan the library workshop and associated support. 

The library workshop is divided into two halves:

  • The first half, which is attended by both lecturer and librarian, but is run by the librarian
  • The second half, in the same room, that is led by the lecturer (the librarian will not be present)

In consultation with your librarian, you can request to design your class workshop in a variety of ways, for instance:

  • A workshop that is part tour (perhaps targeted to specific areas of the library) and part instruction on developing search strategies
  • A workshop that focuses exclusively on developing students' search strategies
  • A workshop that incorporates some attention to citation management systems, such as Refworks, Mendeley, or Zotero.
  • A workshop that involves the students finding books in the stacks
  • A workshop where students have time to search their topics

The most important thing is that you and your librarian strategize together about which design would be meet the learning goals for your class and for the workshop.

Ideas for Collaborating with Your Library Partner on Workshop Design

The goal is to create a carefully constructed lesson plan that introduces the students to library resources and search strategies without overwhelming them.  Develop your lesson plan through conversations with your librarian.  You might also talk with other PWR instructors (especially those who have worked with the same librarian in the past) about their insights about optimizing the workshop experience for students.

Some ideas to discuss with your library partner:

  • Anchor the workshop in specific topics – whether the student topics or even focusing on a single topic (perhaps one you’ve been using as a class as a model) as an example for searching
  • Consider how you want to structure the workshop time (do you want to use part of the time for a tour? How much implementation time? Should students have time to go to the stacks? Etc.)
  • Identify what students might already know (whether that be something you’ve already covered in class or what they could have found out on their own), and make sure to share with them what’s “hidden” or less obvious
  • Develop and share a hierarchy of learning objectives and priorities. Talk about how you will scaffold your workshop through activities (and possibly other library visits) before or after the official library workshop
  • Decide on what are “essential tools” that your students should become familiar with
  • Discuss practical search strategies and how students will be applying what they learn (in relation to a particular assignment, transferable skills, etc.)
  • Try to design an activity-centered workshop, to keep students engaged
  • Consider how much implementation time you want (for students to work on their own projects) and how much activity time (small group or group activities) you want – but try to have students learn from doing
  • Clarify device usage strategies and make sure there is clear messaging about it from both the librarian and the PWR instructor.  Can students follow along on their laptops? Search their own topics? Have laptops closed while the demo is going on?  Use phones in relation to searching?

Integrating the Library into your Course Infrastructure and Activities

The work with the library should be distributed across the quarter, not limited exclusively to the library workshop. Here are some ideas for how to incorporate attention to library research and developing research skills throughout your quarter.

Setting up an pedagogical infrastructure that integrates the library into the class

  • As you construct your syllabus, schedule time in your week-to-week planning for at least one library visit each term and for activities that will engage students in using the library.
  • Make sure that your Librarian is joined to your Canvas site (or has the URL and access to whatever site -- such as a Wordpress site -- if you're using that as an alternative to Canvas).
  • Order course reserves 
  • Use and refer to the Research Guides in class to make them part of the way your students conceptualize research on their topic and link them to your Canvas site.
  • Invite your assigned librarian to visit your classes early in the quarter to introduce themself to your students and to explain the Research Guides they have developed specifically for your course.  Share assignment sheets or informal student writing on research topics with your librarian to increase your library partner's understanding of the course themes and the student interests and work.

Activities for before the library workshop

  • In preparation for the library workshop, have your students fill out a worksheet designed to help them move from identifying a topic to starting to find sources.  See sample worksheets. Goal: Have students refine their topics and start thinking about sources and search methodology
  • Have the students do a tour (like the library's self-guided tour) or a scavenger hunt in the library to familiarize themselves with the building and resources.  Goal: Get students to physically orient themselves to Stanford's resources and to familiarize themselves with pathways to research
  • Visit a particular library branch (such as the Art Library) or collection (such as Special Collections or the Anderson Collection).  Coordinate with a librarian from that branch/collection ahead of time to arrange a tour or activity.  See an example of rhetorical analysis activity for Special Collections. Goal: Expose students to some of the different types of collections and expertise available through the library system and get them excited about primary texts.
  • Have your students practice searching on their own as a warm up to the formal workshop.  See Phyllis Kayten's activity, "From Google to Academic Search Premiere" Goal: Help students understand how different search engines and methods can yield different results so that they become more informed and careful researchers
  • Teach your students the basics of Searchworks or a single database like Academic Search Premiere, and have them find a source related to their topic and email it to you (or your librarian partner) prior to the workshop  Goal: Provide students with practical, guided experience using the databases or online catalogue, teach them how to send citations, and encourage dialogue about research topics

Activities for during the library workshop

The second half of the library workshop is designed and led by the PWR instructor, so set clear learning goals to build on the students' work with the librarian in the first half of the workshop.  Try to engage students in active learning so they implement some of the strategies that they've learned about.

  • Spend some time teaching students how to use a citation management system like RefWorks or Zotero and have them practice saving their citations from their searches to the platform. Goal: Encourage students to move beyond citation correctness to management of sources
  • Have each student use the search strategies s/he learned to find one book source and then have him/her go to the stacks to retrieve it.  In small groups, have them talk about the book they found and evaluate the source using criteria you distribute or have previously discussed as a class.  Goal: Help students turn search strategies into action and practice evaluating sources

Activities for after the library workshop

  • Follow up on the library workshop with at least one or two research exercises, either in class or assigned as homework.  Encourage students to work regularly in at least one library and require that they rely on print as well as non-print sources when conducting research. 
  • Spend class time talking about how to evaluate sources
  • Have students work closely with following citation trails to augment their research, for instance by doing Chris Kamrath's Breadcrumbs Activity (TBU)

Library Collaboration Beyond PWR1

PWR 2 classes are not assigned a librarian, so many instructors create refresher activities and share overview handouts of their own to refamiliarize their second-year students with library resources and research strategies.  

Similarly, is no formal collaboration mechanism in place for upper-division elective PWR courses.  If you are a PWR instructor for an upper-division course and would like to explore possible ways to integrate a workshop or special collections visit into your class, contact Felicia Smith or the specific librarian you'd like to work with to initiate your inquiry.

Resources from the Library

Green instructional librarians have developed a series of videos that you can use as stand-alone learning for your students or that students can watch in advance of their library workshop on How to Use Searchworks, How to Search Databases, How to Evaluate Sources, and "Leapfrogging".  See the Green library youtube playlist for PWR classes.

You might also want to have them watch former Stanford librarian Chris Bourg's video (created for PWR students), "Research is like cooking."

Further Resources for Integrating Library Work into your Course: