Citation
Improving Graduate Students’ Research Skills: The Graduate Student Research Series at the University of Florida

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Title:
Improving Graduate Students’ Research Skills: The Graduate Student Research Series at the University of Florida
Series Title:
Transforming Libraries to Serve Graduate Students
Creator:
Huet, Hélène
Schwieder, David
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ACRL
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English
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Book Chapter

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Subjects / Keywords:
graduate students
workshops
libraries
research skills

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Abstract:
This chapter describes an effort at the University of Florida to address the needs of graduate students and broaden library offerings to this constituency. First, we outline the development and implementation of this library program, the Graduate Student Research Series, which was created to provide more thorough, holistic research assistance to graduates. We describe the nature and contributions of this program and discuss issues that we encountered as well as the lessons we learned along the way. We conclude by offering some best practice guidelines for libraries interested in pursuing this broader type of approach.
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Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Hélène Huet.

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
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University of Florida
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This item is licensed with the Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives License. This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the author.

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315 IM P ROVING GRADUA T E ST UDEN T S RESEAR C H SKI LL S The Graduate Student Research Series at the University of Florida Hlne Huet and David Schwieder Academic libraries are increasingly prioritizing outreach and seeking innovative ways to assist new constituencies. However, these eorts have sometimes been limited and incomplete. Most library programs still focus heavily on a set of fair ly traditional services, which include information literacy instruction, reference services, assisting with reference citation soware, and so on. While such services are crucial for student success, they tend to focus more on providing basic information, oen to undergraduates, and much less on helping graduate students with more complex aspects of their academic work, particularly research. It is generally assumed that graduate students al ready know how to be good researchers or that their academic departments will teach them, but these students nonetheless face unique scholarly and in formation needs. Not only do they have to learn how to navigate the librarys resources, particularly when they come from a dierent institution or country, they also oen need assistance with basic research skills. is is an area where librarians can help.

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316 CHAPTER 25 is chapter describes an eort at the University of Florida to address the needs of graduate students and broaden library oerings to this constituency. First, we outline the development and implementation of this library program, the Graduate Student Research Series, which was created to provide more thor ough, holistic research assistance to graduates. We describe the nature and con tributions of this program and discuss issues that we encountered as well as the lessons we learned along the way. We conclude by oering some best practice guidelines for libraries interested in pursuing this broader type of approach. Literature Review: The Graduate Student Experience and the Academic Library Numerous scholarly studies have examined the needs of graduate students, needs which are fairly similar across institutions. However, these studies have tended to focus more on identifying problems than on solutions, and therefore have not necessarily investigated or examined how libraries can meet graduate student needs. ese studies show that graduate students express an interest in face-toface workshops on a wide variety of topics, many related to the research cycle: nding sources, creating posters, writing a literature review, learning about copy right and open access, applying for grants, and so on. Many libraries already oer some of these workshops, but the articles highlight an important issue. Indeed, graduate students are oen unaware that they can ask librarians for research as sistance or unaware of the services that librarians and libraries can provide and therefore do not know these workshops exist. 1 is likely explains why there is oen a low aendance at these sessions. 2 Most importantly, however, the literature sketches a theme of unmet gradu ate student needs. e graduate student experience is fundamentally department based; subject departments contain advisers, resources, and administrative respon sibilities for degree programs and degree progress. But departments vary widely in the resources they provide to graduate students, and even in the best cases, gaps remain. is is echoed by the more generally decentralized nature of university-lev el services for tasks like teaching. Finally, library oerings have also been somewhat narrow, and thus it can be useful to collaborate with other campus units. 3 ese ndings have served as an inspiration for the Graduate Student Re search Series. is chapter extends the current scholarship by reporting on this program and by providing a concrete example of how one large academic library has addressed these needs.

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Improving Graduate Students Research Skills 317 Involving the Library e general picture that emerges from the literature is one of multiple, wide-rang ing academic needs for graduate students, needs that are only partially and in consistently met in a highly decentralized university system. While the library and librarians cannot (and should not aempt to) replace students academic departments and advisers, we believe that librarians still can contribute more fully to the graduate student experience. Librarians can ll certain gaps in gradu ate students training, in particular for certain facets of the research process that are rarely addressed by others. Librarians, therefore, have a crucial role to play in the academic career of graduate students. Workshop Planning To contribute to graduate training at the University of Florida, the two authors, the European studies and political science librarians, accompanied by a third colleague, the anthropology librarian, created a four-workshop sequence: the Graduate Student Research Series (GSRS). We chose to focus on research be cause it lies at the core of the graduate experience. While the graduate student career encompasses many other elements, such as teaching and taking classes, students typically need to complete an intensive research project such as a mas ters thesis or a PhD dissertation in order to receive a graduate degree. Moreover, graduate students are also increasingly encouraged to publish academic articles, and this requires training and support. e GSRS focuses on guiding graduate students through the academic re search and writing process. We sketched out a sequential, four-step program that covers a logical and coherent set of elements required for advanced research and scholarship (see gure 25.1). Figure 25.1 Four sequential steps required for advanced research and scholarship. In fo rmation Search Reading Scholarly Wo rk s In tegrating Wo rks and Building Scholarly Kno wledge & Exper tise Wr iting Research P apers

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318 CHAPTER 25 Information search was an obvious rst step; not only does nding schol arly sources represent a logical starting point, it also leverages one of our core skills as librarians. Once scholarly sources are located, they need to be read, so covering eective reading skills was a good second step. And, ultimately, since academia is a wrien enterprise and graduate research centers on the production of wrien work, eective writing made for a useful fourth and nal element. e nature of the third step was initially a bit less clear. Aer considering what is needed to bridge the gap between the second step of reading and the fourth step of writing, it was evident that students must be able to integrate and synthesize works they have read into a coordinated body of knowledge, or ex pertise, before it can guide the production of their own research work. Accord ingly, a session based on novice-expert research 4 a body of work that outlines the nature of expertise and how it can be eciently acquiredbuilt nicely upon step two, and set the stage for step four, thus providing an eective transition. Workshop Execution At this point in time, the GSRS has been through three complete iterations. Each time, we conducted a sequence of four 50-minute sessions, following the schematic outlined in gure 25.1, oered over a one-month period. Our work shops are held on the same day and at the same time and place throughout a given semester. ey are free to aend, and aendees are not required to register. ese sessions are primarily aimed at graduate and professional students from humanities and social science disciplines, but ultimately, they are open to any one wanting to aend. Promotion of the GSRS included posting notices to Listservs and social media (through the dierent UF Libraries Twier and Facebook accounts), placing posters in the library, and asking subject liaison colleagues to provide in formation to their departments. ese eorts have yielded an average of twelve to een aendees per session. ese are a diverse mix of graduate students, with an occasional undergraduate, and even faculty colleagues from the library. Across this time, we have had students from nineteen dierent majors, spread over eight of the sixteen colleges at the university. ere has been a strong in ternational student presence, far larger than the percentage at the university as a whole; international students seem to feel more need for research skills instruc tion than American students. Assessment We distributed evaluation forms to workshop aendees at the end of each se

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Improving Graduate Students Research Skills 319 mester. Initial assessment suggests that the Graduate Student Research Series has been well received and eective. While our assessment instrument did not solicit quantitative scores, the evaluations have been largely positive. A comment from a graduate student in linguistics was illustrative: I truly enjoyed every one of the research sessions oered by you and other scholars at the Library West. All the information provided was very helpful and enriching. Accordingly, we feel that our approach highlights an important way that academic libraries can leverage their central hub of the university status to provide well-targeted ser vices that demonstrate substantial value for graduate students. While the feedback from the students has been positive and encouraging, we did encounter several issues that prompted concern and discussion, and that are helping us improve future iterations of the workshops. Issues and Lessons Learned Presenter Expertise and Session Quality As noted previously, the GSRS originated as a collaboration between three li brarians at the Smathers Libraries. All three of us have PhD degrees in our own elds and are experienced classroom instructors. us, we possess a broad range of subject eld expertise and a range of library experience, with information search being our most relevant strength. Nonetheless, we did encounter some clear limitations. While the rst ses sion invoked our librarians expertise, and the third session drew on the extensive social science background of one of the authors, our lack of exposure to reading and writing pedagogy was apparent in the second and fourth workshops. Read ing and writing are specialized topics, with their own literatures and expertise, and none of the presenters had had formal exposure to these areas. Lacking this, these sessions initially oered what essentially involved a patchwork of sugges tions and ideas gleaned from education-based literatures. is did not produce presentations appropriate for a graduate-level audience, and, accordingly, the quality varied across the four sessions. Academic Backgrounds of Attendees Another issue has involved the wide range of academic backgrounds among ses sion aendees. Originally, we expected that the workshop series would aract humanities and social sciences graduate students, but we quickly realized that many students from the sciences were also aending. For some sessions, this did not pose a problemnding sources or reading eectively are fairly similar

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320 CHAPTER 25 across eldsbut other skills, particularly involving the formats used for writ ing papers, can be highly discipline-specic. Our solutions to these two problems, both involving our limited exper tise in the face of the aendees wide range of academic disciplines, have been partial up to this point. In the third iteration of the GSRS, we collaborated with the Smathers Libraries chemistry librarian on the fourth session, dedicated to writing eective scholarly papers, since she would be beer qualied to discuss the proper writing of STEM papers. Future plans include seeking collaboration with relevant campus centers of expertise, for example, the University of Flor idas University Writing Program, which can provide needed expertise that we lack as librarians. Collaboration and Timing of Sessions Another important issue has involved the timing of the sessions. As noted, the GSRS began with three librarians. Given our use of y-minute sessions, and allowing for setup operations, transitions between presenters, and so on, this allowed only about een minutes per presenter. ese segments were oen too short to permit full development of material, and, relatedly, presenters oen found it dicult to stay within their alloed time, which created some tensions. Presentations by three dierent people can also seem choppy, and this under mined smooth coordination across segments. Unfortunately, while organizing longer sessions might seem to be an ob vious solution, this is not a relevant option for us at this point. Assessment re vealed that graduate students prefer shorter, y-minute sessions, as these t more easily into their already busy schedules. To remedy this issue, we decided that only two librarians at most should lead any particular session, and in some cases, one librarian took responsibility for an entire session. is has eased tensions and smoothed presentations, while also allowing us to create more in-depth development of material. Best Practice Guidelines Recognize Your Limits While programs like the GSRS extend library services beyond traditional library programs and oerings, this kind of broader approach can also reach beyond li brarians training and competencies. As noted, we had diculty in addressing our aendees diverse range of disciplines and presenting reading and writing skills at a graduate-appropriate level, and at rst, we essentially tried to blu our way

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Improving Graduate Students Research Skills 321 through. While students had no apparent complaints, this oended our own sense of professionalism. It is important to acknowledge ones own disciplinary limits. To build upon the previous point, the makeup of our original team was not partic ularly optimal. Our common origins in humanities and the social sciences yield ed a substantial overlap among our academic orientations and skill sets, which necessarily le us thin in other spots. Based on this experience, it would seem useful to evaluate the backgrounds of the presenters and to assemble a produc tive, wide-ranging group of librarians and other academic professionals in order to ensure that the workshop experience will be highly relevant and professional. Assess Each Session Reasoning that circulating assessment forms aer each of the four sessions would be unnecessary and repetitive, we originally distributed an evaluation instrument following completion of the entire workshop. Unfortunately, the response was poor, and the aendees who did respond had diculty remem bering their reaction to each particular session. Accordingly, we have concluded that collecting evaluations at the end of each session is well worth the few min utes of time that this takes. Cross-promote Workshops Aendance is oen a concern with library programs, and this was true for the GSRS. us, eective promotion represented another priority. Along with the strategies outlined earlier such as social media, posters, and Listservs, we also cross-promoted our workshops. In later iterations, we collaborated with col leagues who were oering their own programs in data management, data cura tion, copyright, and institutional repositories; all parties listed others workshops on their own promotional materials. is not only serves to boost aendance, it also provides an excellent opportunity for graduate students to see all of the ac ademic resources provided by libraries and librarians. Conclusion Librarians can and should play a role in graduate students career experiences; programs like the Graduate Student Research Series provide one example of

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322 CHAPTER 25 the kind of graduate services expert librarians can oer. e program has been successful, and the consistently good aendance highlights the need for these kinds of workshops at our university. While there have been some issues with the series, we have learned from our experiences, and we constantly aim to im prove the workshops. Our goal is to ensure graduate students receive strong and appropriate training so that they can become the most successful researchers. Notes 1. Colin Beard and David Bawden, University Libraries and the Postgraduate Student: Physical and Virtual Spaces, New Library World 113, no. 9/10 (2012): 445, hps://doi. org/10.1108/03074801211273911 ; Hillary Bussell, Jessica Hagman, and Christopher S. Guder. Research Needs and Learning Format Preferences of Graduate Students at a Large Public University: An Exploratory Study, College and Research Libraries 78, no. 7 (2017): 981, hps://doi.org/10.5860/crl.78.7.978 ; David Gibbs et al., Assessing the Research Needs of Graduate Students at Georgetown University, Journal of Academic Librarianship 38, no. 5 (2012): 272, hps://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2012.07.002 ; Hannah Gascho Rempel, Uta Hussong-Christian, and Margaret Mellinger, Graduate Student Space and Service Needs: A Recommendation for a Cross-campus Solution, Journal of Academic Librarianship 37, no. 6 (2011): 483, hps://doi.org/10.1016/j.acal ib.2011.07.004 2. Bussell, Hagman, and Guder, Research Needs, 992; Bonnie L. Fong et al., Assessing and Serving the Workshop Needs of Graduate Students, Journal of Academic Librarian ship 42, no. 5 (2016): 575, hps://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2016.06.003 3. Bussell, Hagman, and Guder, Research Needs and Learning Format Preferences, Research Needs, 993; Fong et al., Assessing and Serving, 575; Rempel, Hus song-Christian, and Mellinger, Graduate Student Space, 484. 4. John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and James W. Pellegrino, How People Learn (Washing ton, DC: National Academy Press, 2000), 31. Bibliography Beard, Colin, and David Bawden. University Libraries and the Postgraduate Student: Physical and Virtual Spaces. New Library World 113, no. 9/10 (2012): 439. hps://doi. org/10.1108/03074801211273911 Bransford, John D., Ann L. Brown, and James W. Pellegrino. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000. Bussell, Hillary, Jessica Hagman, and Christopher S. Guder. Research Needs and Learning Format Preferences of Graduate Students at a Large Public University: An Explor atory Study. College and Research Libraries 78, no. 7 (2017): 978. hps://doi. org/10.5860/crl.78.7.978 Fong, Bonnie L., Minglu Wang, Krista White, and Roberta Tipton. Assessing and Serving the Workshop Needs of Graduate Students. Journal of Academic Librarianship 42, no. 5 (2016): 569. hps://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2016.06.003

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Improving Graduate Students Research Skills 323 Gibbs, David, Jennifer Boecher, Jill Hollingsworth, and Heather Slania. Assessing the Research Needs of Graduate Students at Georgetown University. Journal of Academic Librarian ship 38, no. 5 (2012): 268. hps://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2012.07.002 Rempel, Hannah Gascho, Uta Hussong-Christian, and Margaret Mellinger. Graduate Student Space and Service Needs: A Recommendation for a Cross-campus Solution. Journal of Academic Librarianship 37, no. 6 (2011): 480. hps://doi.org/10.1016/j. acalib.2011.07.004