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English Composition II Students Discover Research Starts at the Library

By BTL on February 22, 2014 9:23 PM | Permalink

More than 1,450 students enrolled in English Composition II (ENG 102) will attend a library instruction session as a key component of their curriculum this semester. The interactive session provides students an opportunity to focus their assignment topics and sharpen their research skills with a librarian.

ENG 102 is a high-impact course that builds upon the students’ existing critical thinking, reading, and writing capabilities by teaching students to evaluate, cite, and document primary and secondary research sources.

ENG102 has included a required library component since the late 1990s. In 2012, when Erin Rinto became undergraduate learning librarian, it became possible to offer more consistent library experiences to all ENG 102 students. Rinto and Ruby Fowler, assistant composition director in the Department of English, reshaped how the library could better support students as they learn to conduct research.

With ENG 102 as the first exposure many of the students have to academic writing and rigorous research, Rinto and instruction and liaison librarians worked closely with faculty and instructors in the composition program to develop the library component. The collaboration resulted in an instruction session that helps students develop their research topic, find sources, and develop search strategies as they utilize the Libraries’ databases. The work the students do during the library instruction session impacts two assignments—an annotated bibliography and an 8-10 page research paper.

“This semester,” Rinto stated, “approximately 95% of the English instructors are including the library component as part of their course.” Since inception, participation and attendance has grown from 85% of sections in the fall of 2012 to 92% last semester.

Over the course of several semesters, Rinto has found that “some students have difficulty focusing their topics to something cogent and researchable while others need assistance with computer basics or how to mine through search results and evaluate sources.”

At the end of each semester, Rinto gathers feedback from several sources and evaluates what improvements can be made. One tool that resulted is a digital learning object for students to complete before attending the library instruction session. The Libraries’ new Topic Narrowing Tutorial  leads students through a series of questions to help them find an angle on their subject and frame a research question or statement.

Completion of the required Topic Narrowing Tutorial in advance of the instruction session helps students because "they come to us already having an idea of what they want their research papers to be about," Rinto said. Instruction and liaison librarians can preview the current research topics of their upcoming class which saves time and allows for more emphasis on identifying appropriate sources, reading them, and considering strategies for integrating them into their writing.

In addition to providing students with key research, evaluation, and critical thinking skills necessary for succinct academic writing, the library instruction component of ENG 102 contributes to the course goal for students to learn how to develop arguments and support them with sound evidence.