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Adventures in the Library Part 2-primary sources

Do you require your students to write a research paper for your course? How do they do? Are they full of Wikipedia references or do your students have a good handle on primary sources?

For years I have struggled with that issues in my senior level Drug Design and Synthesis course. Despite lengthy talks and handouts on the subject, I would get a whole lot of WebMD in the final papers. Years ago, I had the students go to the library one class period for research and reference instruction. At some point, students started telling me that they have heard that lecture several times in other courses, so I stopped requiring it. But the papers got worse and worse.

I then contacted the science librarian, Mary George, and discussed the assignment with her. She set up a personal website for my students that had many of the resources they needed for that paper. Check it out:

It has the best search engines for our topics, links to online journals that we have subscriptions to, links for inter library loan, etc. It is AWESOME!

We then had a class in the computer lab in the library where we all used the website and became familiar with it. I had the students pull a reference for a literature reading assignment so they could a) walk through how to access those journals and b) leave that day with that paper in hand. I then had them begin searching for their research paper topic. Mary and I were there to help them trouble shoot and by the end of the class period they were all on their way to gathering sources for their final research papers.

It was a huge success. But the real benefit came when I read the papers. There was not a Wikipedia or WebMD reference to be found. The students used real primary sources and the paper quality was much improved.

I highly recommend you contacting your division/department librarian to set up this tool for your course. It is a fabulous resource for all faculty.

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