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Students in Core Curriculum Courses Practice Key Research Skills

By Rachel Mueller ’14

Students at St. Norbert College not only build expertise in specific areas of study or while collaborating on projects in class, but they also learn through core courses in ways that prepare them to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

To help students build the confidence and know-how essential for an information-saturated society, the Research Center partnered with faculty in writing intensive courses this semester.
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Literature as a Stepping Stone

In AnaMaria Seglie’s Introduction to Literary Studies course, students explored the work of American Gothic writers from the late 18th century to the mid-20th century including Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King.

Using classic literature, Seglie (English) created a series of assignments to help her students practice different aspects of writing and close reading skills.

“Each of the essays worked up to a different level of complexity and added a component,” said Seglie. “This one, their research essay, required them to make an argument, but also integrate two outside, peer-reviewed sources.”

While she has incorporated information literacy exercises into classes before, Seglie reached out to the Research Center for her students to work directly with librarians, absorb some of their best practices and use the library’s rich resources, both online and in the stacks.

After an initial discussion about peer-reviewed sources, students worked in groups to focus on a different resource, such as Project Muse or JSTOR. Students were then given time to explore their resource for information and develop a plan to teach that resource to the class – focusing on how to use it, when and why it might be helpful, and one research tip they learned.

“The main goals were to help students understand why they had been asked to focus on peer-reviewed articles and to give the students time to begin exploring resources and experimenting with search terms,” said Christine Moeller (Information Literacy & Instruction Librarian).

Seglie also required her students to submit annotations of the two sources they selected for their final paper.

“Overall, sources they found are of academic quality instead of random articles that don’t relate as well or inappropriate sources that are not in the range of research I look for,” said Seglie. “I also had more students stop to ask whether the sources they were finding were appropriate, which was great!”

Seglie also remarked that setting aside in-class time for research not only helps students do assigned work, but also provides a great moment to discuss best practices.

“It’s helpful for all class levels because you can tailor the content to whomever you’re teaching,” said Seglie. “But it’s particularly important for first and second-year students. By having someone there to push them to really think about what it means to research, to use different search terms or sources and ask questions, they can build confidence in the process.”


Interested in working with a librarian on assignment design this fall? Contact Christine Moeller

May 16, 2017

Researching Religion’s Impact

In Howard Ebert’s Theological Foundations course this spring, students learned the basics of Christian theology and grappled with questions concerning the existence of God and its implications for ethical behavior.

To further explore these concepts, Ebert (Theology and Religious Studies) assigned his students a 6-8 page research paper on a topic of their choice related to the course. He wanted his students to reflect and write an informed paper on how religion regularly impacts the lives of people around the world.

The students were given the opportunity to approach their analysis in one of two ways: either find scholars that already published an analysis or use materials from the course that were discussed to support their own analysis. 

When Ebert contacted Christine Moeller (Information Literacy & Instruction Librarian), he wanted his students to have an overall introduction to library resources.

“What I really appreciated was that she wanted to sit down to talk about the course, about my expectations and where students were at the moment regarding the paper,” said Ebert. 

Through their collaboration, they developed an in-class workshop focused on concept mapping to help students brainstorm their topics. From there, students used their maps to explore resources available through two databases, Academic Search Complete and ATLA.

“That was really helpful. It wasn’t as though she [Christine] was standing in front of them [the students] talking the whole time,” said Ebert. “We were able to walk around and help them find resources. They got down to more narrow topics and got really interested in their research.”

During the session, both Ebert and Moeller answered questions specific to the students’ research, addressed the importance of citations and talked about being mindful of where information is found, especially through Google searches.

“While most of them [the students] had a basic idea of what they might write about, I think the concept mapping helped the students take a little time to further develop their topics and get started with the research process,” said Moeller.

For Ebert, Moeller’s teaching style also made the experience more meaningful.

“How Christine encouraged students to use their computers and phones to look at the stuff that day was excellent,” remarked Ebert. “The students felt very comfortable with her and now they have a face in the library that they know, that they can go to in the Research Center.”

Ebert added that more students dropped by his office to talk and ask questions compared to other semesters. It was clear to him to that they had a better understanding of his expectations.

“Christine stressed, which helped me emphasize to the students, that it’s a process,” said Ebert. “There are dead-ends, there are frustrations, there are ah-ha moments and then you find that article or book that opens up doors.”


Interested in working with a librarian on assignment design this fall? Contact Christine Moeller

May 16, 2017

Literature as a Stepping Stone

In AnaMaria Seglie’s Introduction to Literary Studies course, students explored the work of American Gothic writers from the late 18th century to the mid-20th century including Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King.

Using classic literature, Seglie (English) created a series of assignments to help her students practice different aspects of writing and close reading skills.

“Each of the essays worked up to a different level of complexity and added a component,” said Seglie. “This one, their research essay, required them to make an argument, but also integrate two outside, peer-reviewed sources.”

While she has incorporated information literacy exercises into classes before, Seglie reached out to the Research Center for her students to work directly with librarians, absorb some of their best practices and use the library’s rich resources, both online and in the stacks.

After an initial discussion about peer-reviewed sources, students worked in groups to focus on a different resource, such as Project Muse or JSTOR. Students were then given time to explore their resource for information and develop a plan to teach that resource to the class – focusing on how to use it, when and why it might be helpful, and one research tip they learned.

“The main goals were to help students understand why they had been asked to focus on peer-reviewed articles and to give the students time to begin exploring resources and experimenting with search terms,” said Christine Moeller (Information Literacy & Instruction Librarian).

Seglie also required her students to submit annotations of the two sources they selected for their final paper.

“Overall, sources they found are of academic quality instead of random articles that don’t relate as well or inappropriate sources that are not in the range of research I look for,” said Seglie. “I also had more students stop to ask whether the sources they were finding were appropriate, which was great!”

Seglie also remarked that setting aside in-class time for research not only helps students do assigned work, but also provides a great moment to discuss best practices.

“It’s helpful for all class levels because you can tailor the content to whomever you’re teaching,” said Seglie. “But it’s particularly important for first and second-year students. By having someone there to push them to really think about what it means to research, to use different search terms or sources and ask questions, they can build confidence in the process.”


Interested in working with a librarian on assignment design this fall? Contact Christine Moeller

May 16, 2017

Researching Religion’s Impact

In Howard Ebert’s Theological Foundations course this spring, students learned the basics of Christian theology and grappled with questions concerning the existence of God and its implications for ethical behavior.

To further explore these concepts, Ebert (Theology and Religious Studies) assigned his students a 6-8 page research paper on a topic of their choice related to the course. He wanted his students to reflect and write an informed paper on how religion regularly impacts the lives of people around the world.

The students were given the opportunity to approach their analysis in one of two ways: either find scholars that already published an analysis or use materials from the course that were discussed to support their own analysis. 

When Ebert contacted Christine Moeller (Information Literacy & Instruction Librarian), he wanted his students to have an overall introduction to library resources.

“What I really appreciated was that she wanted to sit down to talk about the course, about my expectations and where students were at the moment regarding the paper,” said Ebert. 

Through their collaboration, they developed an in-class workshop focused on concept mapping to help students brainstorm their topics. From there, students used their maps to explore resources available through two databases, Academic Search Complete and ATLA.

“That was really helpful. It wasn’t as though she [Christine] was standing in front of them [the students] talking the whole time,” said Ebert. “We were able to walk around and help them find resources. They got down to more narrow topics and got really interested in their research.”

During the session, both Ebert and Moeller answered questions specific to the students’ research, addressed the importance of citations and talked about being mindful of where information is found, especially through Google searches.

“While most of them [the students] had a basic idea of what they might write about, I think the concept mapping helped the students take a little time to further develop their topics and get started with the research process,” said Moeller.

For Ebert, Moeller’s teaching style also made the experience more meaningful.

“How Christine encouraged students to use their computers and phones to look at the stuff that day was excellent,” remarked Ebert. “The students felt very comfortable with her and now they have a face in the library that they know, that they can go to in the Research Center.”

Ebert added that more students dropped by his office to talk and ask questions compared to other semesters. It was clear to him to that they had a better understanding of his expectations.

“Christine stressed, which helped me emphasize to the students, that it’s a process,” said Ebert. “There are dead-ends, there are frustrations, there are ah-ha moments and then you find that article or book that opens up doors.”


Interested in working with a librarian on assignment design this fall? Contact Christine Moeller

May 16, 2017

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