When I taught Writing for Business this fall, I realized that my students were more noticeably clueless about library research–and less motivated to do it–than any students I’d had in the past. As the electronic stimuli in our lives proliferate, I believe we’re seeing an alarming drop-off in our students’ ability and willingness to consult the resources that our school libraries are spending thousands of dollars to make available to them.
With all due homage to the Internet, being able to conduct library research, I think we’d all agree, is still a critically important task. In books, magazines, journals, and published reports are research findings and expert opinions relevant to almost any business-related topic.
But the time has come to accept that just sending our students to the library (physically or virtually) and expecting them come back with anything like relevant and thorough research is a vain hope nowadays. This generation of college students have become so accustomed to instantaneous results that they have no patience for more complex searches for information. And judging from the quizzical stares I get when I say to “cast your net wide and then use only your best information,” I think they also regard gathering more information that they will use in a give document as inefficient if not downright irrational.
That is why I took several hours one morning this term to develop a short secondary research guide for my Writing for Business students. I distributed the guide after I saw what a poor job they were doing gathering information for their group reports, and the next week, I saw definite improvement in their research findings. So I’m sharing the guide with you.
To adapt it for your purposes, you’ll need to investigate the search paths and arrangements of business resources on your own school library’s website. (Our library’s recently revised website, to my surprise, turned out to be so difficult to use that I was on the phone with a reference librarian half an hour figuring out what my guide should say. No wonder my students couldn’t find anything.) You may also want to change the citation style (I used MLA) and adapt the sample resources to your own particular projects.
The good news is that students can and will do library research if they’re given a road map through the admittedly confusing options that greet them when the “go to” the library. Let’s keep library research from becoming obsolete by setting our students up for research success and helping them find the “really cool stuff” (as one of my students said) that’s out there.