Research Guides Specifications & Procedures


The following document outlines specifications and procedures for Library Staff and Faculty who are developing, revising or maintaining Subject Research Guides. Any and all coding support is available from the Webmaster. No knowledge of HTML is required. Text should follow the guidelines in the Rutgers University Libraries Style Sheet.

This document was written as guidance for guide creators. Guide creators should be aware, however, that the Web Advisory Committee reviews and approves the guides before they become 'live' on the server.

The Libraries' Webmaster (Sam McDonald) is available for consultation and advice at rulweb@rci (732/932-8573(x195))

Purpose of subject research guides

The RU Libraries Subject Research Guides are intended to:



Most of the guides "out there" focus on Internet (mostly web-based) resources. Our guides have, for the most part, done the same, with the inclusion of local electronic resources (e.g. IRIS, licensed databases). We recommend the inclusion of local print and non-print resources (e.g. traditional bibliographies of reference books, CD-ROM and other electronic databases, departmental webpages, government documents) whether at Rutgers or elsewhere, as appropriate to the subject. Guides should be "system-wide" and describe resources no matter which library they are in.

Research Guides should include the following:

  1. A guide on how to do effective research in a particular subject area.
  2. A guide to local resources: print and non-print.
  3. A guide to web-based resources not owned by RUL.
  4. Rutgers-related resources (eg. departments, programs, centers, and projects).

Internal structure of guides

The resources should be classified or organized by the page developer or subject specialist in a manner appropriate to the subject.

The guides may be single pages or multiple pages connected by a table of contents/'backpath'/cross-linking.


Page developers are encouraged to consult with the Webmaster concerning design and layout.

Some guidelines for composing the Guides are:


General requirements

All RUL Research Guides must reside on the primary RUL Web server, to allow for standard headers/sidebar, footers and styles. An appropriate directory structure will be set up by the Webmaster to accommodate all guides and related images. (Exceptions: The Law Research Guide is hosted by the Newark Law School server and the Numeric and GIS Data on an SCC server).

As a general rule, all RU Libraries web pages use common styles and templates that define the colors, side bar, headings and footers.

Conventions employed on the site include:

There are two additional required elements:

Some elements that are rarely used in guides due to accessibilty and compatibility reasons are:

Please consult with the Webmaster if you want to discuss using any of the above elements in a project.

Updating requirements

It is important in our service model that we serve our users with good, well-structured, and well-described help and information, and it logically follows that in the rapidly changing 24/7 online environment that our online content be up-to-date and accurate. In order to clarify what this means in a quantitative and qualitative fashion, WAC has provided the following expectations, requirements, and best practices.

What does an update mean?

Minimally, a guide needs to have all the links checked annually so that they aren't broken or leading to unintended sites. Since web sites, even licensed resources, do not contain the same content year after year, the descriptions need to be reviewed at least annually. Although the Webmaster does not evaluate what really constitutes a legitimate minimal update, the dates on the guide will change with nearly any change even if small. A record of all change and update requests is kept for each guide. WAC will send a reminder to all research guide authors in January and July of each year.

Best practices

The best way to keep a guide up to date is to have a reasonable plan and keep to it. The large guides did not start out as 14 page guides. Most started as 4 or 5 pages and grew over the years and the task of updating has grown in proportion.

Process of mounting guides

1. Creating new research guides

The typical process of creating a new guide consists of 7 steps:

  1. describe a new guide and discuss it with the chair of WAC.
  2. consult with the Webmaster if you have any questions about formatting or process.
  3. outline the guide by sections and pages and working and writing each page. It is easier to manage if each web page is a separate document.
  4. when the content has hit a 'critical mass' (not necessarily complete, but enough to be useful), send it to the Webmaster (see: "Files can be sent by", below). The Webmaster will code it and mount it as a 'secret'/unlinked page and provide that to the guide author for review.
  5. WAC reviews the guide
  6. corrections and tweaks are made to the page(s). When it is ready to go 'live' it will be linked from the main list of guides.
  7. content for a news blurb should be compiled and provided to Communications Coordinator for the basis of news item.
  8. the guide should be crosslinked from suitably related pages such as the "Index and database: By Subject" pages, site index, and other guides or library pages.

New content and most corrections need to be provided in a digital format such as:

Please consult with the Webmaster for convertible document types in other formats.

Files can be sent by:

The Webmaster and/or WAC reserve the right to modify the documents for style or technical reasons. Global changes to URLs, especially for licensed resources (e.g. ProQuest switching to EbscoHost), will be done by the Webmaster automatically, followed by an email notice to the guide author for review.

2. Modifying / updating existing research guides

Research Guides, in order to be useful, friendly and respected must be maintained so that the original high quality is consistent over the course of time. Developers of Research Guides will find new resources or will want to re-annotate, restucture or otherwise change their Guide periodically.

Since the guide will have several hours of HTML development in it, it is often easier for the webmaster to add resources rather than rebuild a whole page or Guide.

Small changes, which may be:

may be sent to sent to the Webmaster with this type of information:

A good format might be (e.g.):

Clickable Text: The Institute of Recursive Studies
Description: The definitive resource for Recursive studies. Many indexes are provided as well as a forum for discussing the circular motion of creative chaos. Hosted by the University of Sregtur.

Under Institutes between X and Y

You can add as many resources in a single email as you see fit. The Webmaster will try to update the page as soon as possible. If you need the changes to made by a certain day please note this in your email. Please allow plenty of lead time.

For changes that may not be considered 'small', such as a complete restructuring, it is probably best to make an appointment with the Webmaster and explain the goal so that the changes can be made as easily as possible.

Upon request by a guide creator, the Webmaster will use a linkchecker to review the pages for 'bad links'. The Webmaster will mail the results to the guide creator so that the URLS can be updated or replaced with an equivalent resource. It is important that all off-site links be manually checked by the subject research guide creator to be sure that the URLs, while 'live', are not being redirected to different content from when they were first selected.

For those who wish to occasionally do their own link checking, the Webmaster recommends the the Firefox extension Linkchecker or the freeware linkchecker: Xenu's Link Sleuth.

Collections of research resources

The following resources provide compilations and news about scholarly resources that are not necessarily reported on lists.

Last updated February 13, 2004; slight update Sept. 17, 2004, Oct. 12, 2004; Nov. 15, 2004; January 5, 2005; January 9, 2006; January 9, 2013
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