Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Sign In
skip breadcrumbHome > Library > Instruction


Critical Research

​Williams Library &

​Pecos Library

​Monica Johnson
​Kim Chuppa-Cornell
  • What We Do
  • What We Need
  • Once-a-Week Classes
  • Scaffolding
  • Dev. Ed. Classes

​What We Do For You and Your Students

  • Design hands-on, interactive Critical Research Instruction tailored to your specific assignment and student needs; we use a "just-in-time" approach in that we teach students the skills, strategies, and sources they need for your project. The instruction is designed for the full 75 minute class period.

  • Pull sample materials and research in advance to identify challenges and effective strategies to share with your students.

  • Create instructional materials to hold students accountable for their learning and progress throughout the session as well as to help students become independent researchers once the class period ends.

​What We Need For Successful Sessions

  • Don't assume your students know how to research or that they've learned these skills in another class - devoting time in class to information literacy development shows students this is a skill you value and an expectation you have for their learning.

  • Time to prepare; book Critical Research classes ahead of time - it's never too early!  However, we know sometimes inspiration strikes at unexpected times; we will try to accommodate you as best we can. However, we require at least one week in advance to schedule an instruction request.

  • Use scaffolding; consider breaking assignments into smaller parts and coming to the library several times throughout the semester so that the instruction is closely timed with the students' application needs.

  • A copy of your assignment identifying specific source requirements (and preferably student topics) a week before the Critical Research class.

  • Your presence during the session - faculty come with their classes to the instruction session and stay during the lesson to answer questions, clarify requirements, etc.

  • Hot students, in other words students who have received the assignment ahead of time and have topic ideas. The Critical Research class is not nearly as effective if students are "cold" - meaning the class is the first time students are learning about the assignment. Likewise, due to the demands of the first and last weeks of the semester, scheduling Critical Research during this time is not productive for the students.

​Once-a-Week Classes 

Students taking night or once-a-week classes often feel disconnected from college life. The Library serves as an anchor to their college experience. Your students use the Library more than you think they do.

We recommend-

  • Scheduling your Critical Research instruction as soon as you can. Instruction times can fill up quickly, especially for night classes.

  • Ideally, providing your classes with the assignment prior to the Critical Research instruction, not the day of or during the instruction.

  • Tailoring instruction to a specific assignment. Formalized Critical Research instruction centered on a specific assignment increases the students' awareness of credible sources.


“The purpose of scaffolding is to help the learner or builder to reach higher tasks than can be performed at just the base level. Acquiring the base skills gives a foundation for building higher levels of skills that may become both more complex or more refined and precise.” “Information Literacy Progression.” School Library Monthly.  November 2011, Academic Search Premier.
“Breaking up the learning into chunks and then providing a tool, or structure, with each chunk.” Rebecca Alber. “Six Scaffolding Strategies You Can Use with Your Students.” Edutopia, May 24, 2011.
We recommend -
  1.  Sharing and collaborating with library faculty the student learning outcomes of  the entire research (writing) process / assignment.

  2. Dividing the research process into separate Critical Research experiences.

  3. Expecting and requiring student accountability for each scaffolded learning activity: for example, Critical Research worksheet, journal entry, reflection work, graphic organizer, portfolio artifact,  or outline.

  4. Scheduling the research and resource learning experience close together, two to six weeks if possible.

  5. Reviewing with library faculty what worked and what can be changed.

​Developmental Education Classes

“Developmental education should prepare students for success in subsequent coursework through exposure to rigorous performance standards and practice skills and habits associated with consistently high academic achievement…Better alignment [is needed] between developmental education and college coursework [for] a more relevant academic experience for underprepared students”.  (Edgecombe 2011)
“By using authentic academic texts as part of academic assistance services, low-skilled students become more active learners and are then more inclined to use their skills in college courses” .(Perin 2011)
We recommend -
  1. Incorporating authentic texts and assignments to align with 100-level classes. Many faculty use the same assignment for their 101 and 08/091 students; they just change the scale of the research and writing requirements.

  2. Including more than one library/research-based experience; research, like writing, is a recursive process. Many faculty include multiple library/researched-based experiences to help students become more comfortable with the library and college-level research sources, which eases fears and enhances affective learning. The focus of each experience can be designed to increase independence and build on skills learned previously.

  3. Connecting library/research-based assignments to initiatives like service-learning, guest speakers,  etc. Many faculty connect the library/research-based assignment to another project or assignment in class, such as "pre-reading" research on an upcoming guest speaker or follow-up research on a service learning site or issue. For example, students might visit a food bank and then come to the library to research hunger statistics from multiple sources. Or students might conduct research for a poster or presentation they are creating in response to a One-Book theme, like censorship.