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New tools to foster undergrads' research skills

English 201 courses have become an essential stepping stone in the undergraduate careers of many students, refining their understanding of college- level research techniques and challenging them to complete research projects on topics of their choice within different fields. As course requirements for undergraduate students changed within the past few years, enrollment in the 201 courses and the number of course sections has increased significantly.

English 201 instructors have worked closely with the Libraries to provide in-class instruction, by seasoned librarians, on the fundamentals of how to conduct research, effectively use library resources, and evaluate information found in-print or online. Yet with the growth in class sections, the number of librarians available to teach these critical instruction sessions could no longer meet the scheduling demands.

Working together, the administrator of English 201 and three New Brunswick librarians tackled this growing challenge head on, before it became critical.

Jill Nathanson, Reference and Instruction Librarian, partnered with Trinyan Mariano, Assistant Director of the Writing Program and the English 201 Coordinator, to create interactive, online instruction modules, to complement and supplement in-person library instruction for these courses. Jill and Trinyan bought studio time from the Office of Instructional and Research Technology to produce 2-5 minute video modules on various instruction topics, which will be used in English 201 classes in spring 2013.

Jill enlisted librarians Mei Ling Lo and Therese Triumph and the group worked with Trinyan to create a LibGuide which features many of the instruction modules, to help students in English 201 navigate the research process. This LibGuide and the instruction modules can be linked to through a class section's Sakai site and can also be used outside of the English 201 courses. The instruction topics are widely applicable, ranging from how to navigate the libraries at Rutgers to understanding what is a scholarly article.

Through these instruction modules, Rutgers librarians will be able to spend less time on general instruction in the classroom and spend more time on focused instruction, based on the students' specific research topics. Trinyan Mariano is excited about these new resources, and said, "We are convinced that the new video modules represent the beginning of a paradigm shift in the way research methods are taught to undergraduate students. The new system is more flexible and gives instructors the ability to teach smaller pieces at a time. This approach enables students to master the concepts as they go and to put the knowledge gained to immediate practical use. As a result, we hope our students will produce even better work and emerge from our courses better prepared for their fields of graduate study and the workplace."

The video instruction modules are available for broader use and can help prepare students in a wide variety of courses for college- level research in the Rutgers University Libraries. For more information on these video instruction modules, please contact Jill Nathanson at

Posted April 4, 2013; April 10, 2013