Have you ever wanted to encourage your students to complete more research for their papers and assignments? Developing research skills is essential to a student’s academic development. In a lot of ways it is like body-building. The more a body-builder lifts weights the stronger he or she becomes. In the same way, the more a student engages in research and writing the stronger he or she becomes in the ability to perform university level research. Here are some tips on how to encourage research engagement and robustness in your students’ work:
- In the first class, take a few minutes to demonstrate how to use the Belhaven Virtual Library and specifically show the students how to access databases and e-books.
- Require students to have at least the same number of sources cited within the paper as there are number of pages required for the assignment. For example, if the paper requires five full-pages of text, then there should be at least five sources cited within the paper.
- Consider requiring that two-thirds of the sources required be taken from the Belhaven Virtual Library. So if they are completing a nine page paper – at least six sources should be from the virtual library and three may be from printed texts. The student should also be expected to utilize only peer-reviewed sources available through the virtual library. On the databases and e-books search function in the virtual library, there is a checkbox to sort the articles to include only peer-reviewed material.
- Remind students that if a source is not cited within the paper, it should not be on the reference page. Without proper citation within the text, a reference found only on the reference page hints of plagiarism.
- Explain to students how to use sources. Most references should be summarized in the students own words; direct quotes should be used only for the greatest impact and only if there is no better way to say what needs to be said. If direct quotes are used, the quote should be unpacked with the student’s explanation of how it supports the thesis of the paragraph or the paper itself.
If you desire to brush-up on your own research training skills, I recommend The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams published by The University of Chicago Press. If you want a quick overview of it, a professor at George Mason University has provided a summary at http://mason.gmu.edu/~afinn/html/teaching/courses/250_s2002/craftofresearch.pdf .
The ability to perform university level research is a critical skill for students to develop. We are the trainers and coaches in this area and it should be our goal to gradually nurture our students in the development of this essential skill.