Gail M. Staines, Ph.D., Niagara County Community College, New York
What is the best method for teaching students to undertake scholarly research and writing in the social sciences disciplines at the community college level? This question prompted a librarian and two social sciences professors to conduct "research with a small r." Research papers from three groups of subjects were compared during the Spring 1998 semester at a community college in western New York. One section of 30 students in Community Studies wrote a literature review paper having received a manual written by the researchers. One section of 30 students received verbal library instruction. And one section of 30 students received both the manual and verbal instruction. Faculty members in the social sciences (other than the researchers) blindly read and graded the papers. Papers were graded according to a pre-designed point designation. Mean grades for the three groups were compared. The results indicated that the group receiving the manual would receive the lowest scores, the group given verbal instruction received slightly higher scores, and the group receiving both the manual and verbal instruction received the highest scores.
Action Based on Results
This small research project has aided us in improving our instruction to students. Instead of giving students multitudes of handouts at every library instruction session, students are given a published manual at the beginning of the course which contains all the information included in the handouts. This, in itself, has helped the research/instruction team organize information for teaching students. It also gives students a reference book complete with exercises to refer back to in future courses.
- Collaboration has been key. Selecting people you know you can work with on a project helps the project run smoothly.
- Working with faculty from a discipline can be a rewarding learning experience.
- Start small. Try to estimate the amount of time the project will take. This will help you determine if the project is manageable in a specific time frame.
- Talk once a week with collaborators, even if briefly. This helps the group stay focused and motivated.
- Any research helps you better understand your clientele and the services you provide.
ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION OF PAPERS
- Format (Maximum = 5 points) = The paper should have a title page, introduction, a body, conclusion, and bibliography.
- Mechanics (Maximum = 15 points) = This includes the quality of grammar, use of complete sentences, proper paragraphs, correct spelling.
- Citations/References (Maximum = 20 points) = Cite sources in acceptable APA format. Sources cited in the text must be properly referenced in the bibliography, and vice versa.
- Readability (Maximum = 20 points) = This includes the organization of the paper, quality of transitions between sentences, paragraphs, sections, etc.
- Content (Maximum = 40 points) = This refers to the extent to which the paper responds to the research question in a meaningful way.
Total = _________ (maximum 100 points)