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Libraries online tutorial cuts out research confusion: Try Searchpath

Faculty members who want to help their students develop competent college-level research skills now have an innovative new tool. Students seeking a comfort level with library resources before the crush of final research assignments now have an ally in their corner.

A new service of the Rutgers University Libraries, Searchpath is an interactive online tutorial about finding and using worthwhile information sources in the libraries and on the Web. Searchpath will help students save time, produce higher quality research, and get higher grades.

Many students arriving at Rutgers largely used the Internet to prepare high school assignments. Now they need a solid grounding in the library services and scholarly resources necessary to complete college-level assignments successfully. Searchpath provides modules on six discrete areas of college-level research at Rutgers: starting smart (identifying different types of information on the Web and in library resources), choosing a topic, using IRIS - the Libraries online catalog, finding articles, using the Web, and citing sources. Each module takes 15-20 minutes to complete and can be viewed either alone or as a complete series. Each module ends with a quiz that assesses the students' understanding of the concepts covered.

Searchpath was originally developed at Western Michigan University, using material from the TILT tutorial created by the University of Texas Digital Library's Digital Information Literacy Office, and has been licensed and adapted by a team of Rutgers librarians for use at Rutgers. The tutorial addresses many of the information literacy competency standards for college students advocated by national groups, such as the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Faculty members can link to Searchpath in WebCT, in Blackboard, or within other online instructional materials, referring to specific modules or the entire tutorial. Faculty members may want to assign specific modules of Searchpath to students as prerequisites before research assignments. Searchpath sends students' module quiz results to faculty members via email, documenting their completion of the assignments.

Faculty members can also use Searchpath as a preparatory assignment for in-class library instruction sessions, allowing librarians to concentrate on scholarly resources of specific relevance to the class and to spend more time on student questions.

Students can also use Searchpath on their own, to prepare in advance for research assignments by learning what tools are available to them and how to use them most effectively. As an online service, Searchpath provides the equivalent of a personal tutor on library resources, available 24/7 and accessible from any dorm room.

Faculty and students can start using Searchpath now, at this location: Searchpath is also accessible from the gray navigation bar, located on the left of every page of the Libraries website.

For information about Searchpath contact Jeanne Boyle, Associate University Librarian for Public Services, at

Jacques Swartz, RC '09, experiences exasperation as he starts his research for one of his classes. He needs Searchpath.

Posted February 21, 2005; Many times; May 8, 2006