Discovering information about a topic of interest can be really exciting. But it is also a complex, messy process which draws on a variety of skills. Students must learn to judge the quality and relevance of material they find, follow leads, manage large quantities of information, know where to look for information and understand which keywords or systems will help them discover relevant resources. Effective research skills develop over time and with practice. Identify the skills you want to help students develop and make time in sessions for students to refine their skills and share their findings.
How can you get students excited about research?
What do you hope students will discover about the subject?
Which research skills will the students already have when they start this level?
How will you build in activities to help students develop as researchers?
Which opportunities will students have to share what they have discovered with others?
What is the purpose of the research they will undertake: to gain an overview of a topic? to understand details or technical processes? to evaluate research methods? to engage with the most up-to-date research in the field? to discover a topic which interests them?
Solent best practice: weekly independent research tasks
In Richard Inverne's sessions, researching and sharing findings becomes an integral part of what students do. Students research a topic which interests them, then lead the discussions as they share their weekly findings with each other.
By giving students the option to choose from the 6-8 weekly topics, the possibility to research in pairs, and the responsibility to report back to the rest of the class, Richard creates an engaged research culture in his seminars. Aware that independent research skills develop with guidance, Richard supports the information searching process. For example, he introduces his Level 4 students to his 12" rule: identify an interesting book in the library, and browse the books 12" either side to develop an overview of the topic.
Using reading lists
A well-devised reading list includes a variety of types of text and research leads for students to explore. Watch the 2 minute student-facing video on succeed@solent and think about how you can promote the reading list as a starting point for research.
This example is from succeed@solent. The principle can be adapted to highlight key information about your reading list then embedded in your module page.
Journal articles offer a wealth of research leads. Draw on the full scope of articles when using them in sessions.
Tools and Resources
Digital reading list: curate your reading listto make it a valuable research tool for students. Make use of the list regularly in teaching sessions.
Study skills resources: familiarise yourself with the activities in the 'Finding Sources' section of succeed@solent and direct students to relevant activities at key points throughout the module. Become familiar with all the resources listed in your subject'slibguide.
Library catalogue: Explore Solent's library catalogue from the perspective of a student. Discover which filters or settings help you get to the most relevant resources and share your process with your students.
Google scholar: Build the use of academic search engines into sessions. Show students how they can follow research leads through 'cited in' links, or browse the publishing profile of certain academics.
Web page annotation: Introduce students to browser plugins such as Diigo to save, annotate, organise and collaborate on resources found on the web.
Collaboration tools: Develop a culture of exploring together and sharing interesting discoveries through collaborative spaces such as the university Microsoft One Drive.
RefWorks: Help students develop habits of documenting the resources they access in a referencing tool such as RefWorks.