Learning to research for credit

Posted by Julia Leef

With hundreds of courses offered each semester, one and two credit classes can easily be passed over when a student is searching for the perfect schedule. Two such classes are LI 100: Electronic Information Resources, and LI 371/372: Independent Study, offered through the Lucy Scribner Library faculty.

LI 100 is only taught for the first quarter of the semester; its goal is to show students how to navigate the massive collection of electronic databases and resources available through the college.

Access Service and Humanities Librarian John Cosgrove and Barbara Norelli, the instructional services and social science librarian, alternatingly instruct the one credit LI 100 course.

"We are living in what has been dubbed the Information Age, so I think the course becomes more important every year," Cosgrove said. "We examine how information resources are formatted, organized, structured, searched, browsed, evaluated and used, and consider some of the technological, social, political, economic and practical issues of the information age."

LI 100 meets twice a week for seven weeks. In addition to weekly class meetings, professors from other departments often make guest appearances, instructing the class in how to best research for different subject matters.

"It's an opportunity to expose students not only to research technology, but to talk about resources students should be aware of," said Norelli, who has taught the course since 1998.

Norelli also notes the importance of taking the class as early as possible. "Students who enroll in the spring of their senior years often regret not learning about the databases sooner," Norelli said.

 Part of the problem, according to Norelli, is that students may not necessarily see the Library courses between the much larger departments in the course catalogue. However, a renewed effort to advertise, she believes, will help inform students of the opportunities that the classes offer.

"I think students like the class," Cosgrove said. "Enrollment has been good and evaluations have been positive."

LI 371/372 is an independent study course designed to help students prepare for intense projects such as a senior thesis, a capstone or an honors project involving a lot of research.

Students have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a subject specialist in the library to organize and prepare for major projects.

Ruth Copans, the Library director and one of the professors for LI 371/372, has worked with two students working on French projects this semester. Copans has enjoyed the experience, noting, "Seniors would benefit from working with a librarian one-on-one with their topic."

The course allows students to gain full knowledge of the library's research facilities and databases, aiding them with stressful final projects and alleviating some worry, such as correctly assembling a properly formatted bibliography.

"I think sometimes we can open up different avenues and different perspectives, and that's really helpful," Copans said.

In addition to Copans, LI 371/372 is taught by Susan Zappen, Yvette Cortes, Andy Krzystyniak and Linda Hofmann, among others.

Several professors, such as Kate Graney, head of the government department, and sociology professor Kate Berheide, routinely recommend that students participate in this course.

"Having a weekly assignment and being kept to a specific timetable for researching and compiling a bibliography has proven very useful for the students," Graney said. "It is a great class and a wonderful resource for the government department and our students."

French professor John Anzalone requires LI 371 for students working on an honors thesis or other final projects.

"Students need to know how to navigate the world of research in the digital age and I find that our students are not well equipped to do so without guidance," Anzalone said. "Scribner Library's subject specialist librarians have been invaluable in directing my thesis students in the creation of targeted bibliographies and in the myriad ways of conducting research today."

Anzalone also brings some of his classes to the library for bibliographic instruction sessions, which he finds helpful for his Scribner Seminars as well as several of his other classes.

The library courses also allow students to build relationships with the librarians and subject specialists by working with librarians consistently over a period of time. LI 100 and LI 371/372 provide important information for students that will benefit them in future semesters, and the professors and librarians involved all encourage students to take advantage of its many resources and opportunities.

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