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Assessment (HC)

Best Practices for Research Support Consultations


1) Inquiries and exchanges of information

2) Librarians’ preliminary research and preparation of topical material

3) Librarians’ checklist of pertinent concepts in terms of critical thinking, research strategies, and library resources and services

4) Meetings with researchers

5) Follow up

1) In setting up meetings with users, librarians check with them for details about their research topics, methodologies and approaches, specific needs, and constraints.

2) Librarians research topics before meeting with users and prepare the following kinds of materials:

  • Search terms: Note such things as variants, synonyms, and LC subject headings
  • Search statements: Combine search terms to define specific aspects of topics and adjust strategies based on search results 
  • Journal databases: Identify the particular strengths of databases that will be most useful and select sample journal articles that are both relevant and authoritative
  • Books: Find books that treat the research topic and have some on hand (in print or online) to illustrate the range of content and for bibliographic references
  • Disciplinary overviews: Students, as part of their projects, need to contextualize their research within a larger framework.  Librarians can introduce them to literature reviews, citation searching, and companion and handbook style overviews depending upon their needs.  The comprehensive treatment and critical analysis provided by these kinds of resources allow students to explore their topic in a more informed fashion.
  • Special needs: In many projects, students have particular questions that require research beyond the standard tools of catalogs and journal databases.  Librarians think creatively about agencies, organizations and individuals as well as websites and libraries that will connect with a student’s research and interests.

3)  The librarian identifies the critical thinking skills and research strategies that are needed for the topic and for the scope of the project.  If this is a first-time meeting with the student, the librarian is prepared to explain library services and procedures.

4) Librarians meet with users and ask them to talk about their topics and the research they have done so far.  If users have a broad topic and have not yet shaped it into a focused research question, librarians will discuss what interests them specifically and how those topics connect to ideas they have discussed in class.  Together users and librarians may check journal databases or disciplinary overviews to see the questions which scholars are currently debating that relate to their topic.  They can then follow up on a specific question of interest.

In looking at the material identified prior to the meeting, the librarian asks the user what is useful and what is still needed.  Together they explore other approaches and resources, with the librarian keeping notes for the follow up.  The librarian remains alert to the possibilities for referrals to other librarians, faculty on campus, scholars elsewhere, research groups, and collections in other libraries.

5) In a follow up to the meeting, the librarian sends resources with links to the student.  Material is arranged in a research plan with research tools identified.  The librarian also asks the student to keep in touch and be sure to tell her/him if the material does not answer the student’s questions.