Freshman Research Skills: Workshop Summary

Thanks to all who joined us for our first Teaching with Technology event.  The topic was Freshman Research Skills, and Kathy Gehring presented the results from the Research Practices Survey (RPS).  The RPS is a tool that allows us to collect information on our first year students’ previous research experiences and assess their research skills.  The survey was developed by Dr. Jo Beld and is administered by the HEDS (Higher Education Data Sharing) Consortium.

We sent the survey to first year students a week or so before they arrive on campus in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013.  This year we saw a 50% response rate, a much higher rate over previous years.  Kathy presented several questions and the results from this year’s survey.  The questions we discussed were:

  • How much do you enjoy doing research?
  • When you did research in the most recent year, which of the following search tools did you use to find sources?
  • A citation is not required when…. (students were given several statements)
  • For each of the following, indicate whether the items are an entire book, journal article, or portion of a book… (students were then given three different citations).
  • What is a scholarly journal?
  • What best describes the way you pace your work?
  • Finally, students are asked if they agree with statements about research beliefs.  For example, “People are just better researchers than other,” and “researchers can ultimately get to the truth.”

Following Kathy’s presentation of the survey results, some participants were surprised at the results and others expressed that the results validated what they experience in their classes.  One major takeaway was that faculty, when designing research assignment, should assume minimal knowledge of terms like “scholarly,” how and why to cite sources, how to differentiate source types, and where to go to find appropriate sources.  We discussed ways to improve students’ research skills.  These included requiring or suggesting individual or small group consultations with librarians, bringing a librarian into your class to teach and reinforce some of these concepts, and collaborating with librarians on assignments.

The presentation is available by following this link (you’ll need to log in using your Conn account).  If you wish to work with a librarian to address some of these issues in your classes, please contact your library liaison.

If you were present and have something to add, please do so in the comments!


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