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First-Year Seminar Focus: Providing a Foundation of Research Skills for UNLV Students

By BTL on November 30, 2013 11:29 AM | Permalink

This fall, as the campus has been abuzz with record enrollment of new undergraduates, UNLV Libraries’ subject liaison librarians have focused on the academic success of our future alumni by designing and teaching an integrated research component in their first-year seminar (FYS) courses.

To ensure students in FYS courses develop a solid foundation of research skills, along with an introduction to the services and resources available at UNLV Libraries, our expert subject liaison librarians have created customized instruction plans in conjunction with the curriculum for each college’s course. With consideration of the five University Undergraduate Learning Outcomes introduced to FYS students, the library research component focuses on Inquiry and Critical Thinking—formulating and refining research questions, practicing effective search strategies, selecting and evaluating sources, and understanding how to properly cite sources. The pitfalls of plagiarism are addressed through an emphasis on the importance of academic integrity and the appropriate attribution of information sources.

With a range of assignments and curriculum across the colleges’ diverse FYS courses, subject liaison librarians have created unique exercises to provide students with an active, hands-on experience, while focusing on developing transferable skills to prepare them for the next level of research.

Sue Wainscott, STEM Librarian, engages students with search term strategies.

For SCI 101, students met with librarians three times over the course of the fall semester. Sue Wainscott, STEM Librarian, along with Xan Goodman, Health Sciences Librarian, Samantha Godbey, Education Librarian, and Nancy Fawley, Head, Library Liaison Program, taught a combined 39 sessions, which provided the students with training and skills to successfully complete both an annotated bibliography and research for a poster presentation.

In the first research session, librarians modeled and practiced search strategies. Students completed a search strategy log handout that they could continue to utilize during their research between sessions. The second session expanded on creating citations, the ethical use of information, and included an in-class discussion on plagiarism. The library component concluded with a final session that provided students with time to continue searching and evaluating sources for their final project while their FYS instructor and subject liaison librarian were available for questions.

One of the ways that Urban Affairs Librarian Susie Skarl involved students in her library instruction sessions for GSC 100 was through a group activity for evaluating sources of a topic that was relatable and relevant to the students. For the eight sections of GSC 100 that completed the library component, the students were actively engaged in a discussion of credible sources on the dangers of distracted driving.

“The library component is a vital part of the curriculum for the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs first-year seminar. One of our most important instructional objectives is to help students evaluate the accuracy and objectivity of sources of information. Susie Skarl has developed a presentation for our classes that addresses these issues in an active and engaging way,” said Kathy Espin, visiting professor and GSC 100 Coordinator.

According to GSC 100 student Alexis Jones, who is currently completing her first semester at UNLV, “The library session really helped me learn better ways to search and do research. I learned tricks on navigating the library website and how to easily access and use the databases. I’m sure that I will be more successful now in choosing sources and doing research for my assignments.”

SCI 101 and GSC 100 are only two of the many FYS courses that have an embedded library component. Our subject liaison librarians have taught more than 100 sessions to students in FYS courses from 10 colleges this semester. A quick visit to the library instruction rooms on a normal day in October will reveal a bustling group of undergraduate and graduate students attending expert library instruction sessions for a variety of other courses.

For information on working with a librarian to design a research assignment or to teach your students research skills, from novice to expert, contact your subject liaison librarian, fill out the instruction request form at, or call 895-2114.