Notes from the Trenches

Teaching UNV 101 at Miami University

I recently had the pleasure of teaching a one credit Introduction to university resources course to incoming first year and transfer students, called UNV 101 at Miami University. The course introduced students to resources available to help them succeed in college and beyond including academic advising, tutoring, library tools, and more. We also discussed potentially uncomfortable or divisive topics such as diversity and inclusion throughout the course. Teaching this course afforded me the opportunity to not only teach students about campus resources such as the library, but also gave me the chance to build meaningful connections with incoming students–both of which contribute to student retention and success.

Teaching UNV 101 gave me an opportunity to do more than is typically possible during the one-shot library instruction session. Thomas Atwood spoke on the importance of librarians actively engaging to assist transfer students acclimation to their new environment. We can actively participate in campus wide efforts aimed at student retention and success through engagement efforts (2017). I strongly agree and suggest librarians consider focusing more engagement efforts on teaching full semester courses such as the UNV 101 course.

In the past, I enjoyed connecting with students in the classroom environment as an adjunct psychology professor. It was a pleasure to see my students’ eyes light up when they developed new insight into complex issues or concepts. My goal was simple: help students develop an intrinsic interest in learning so they would intentionally choose to evaluate information to make responsible decisions.

Teaching the UNV 101 course was an invaluable opportunity to build meaningful connections with the students. Courses in which librarians can interact with students on a weekly basis are integral to building real connections with the student body. Further, librarians specialize in assessing information for quality, accuracy and bias. When we step outside of the role of providing information on library resources only and lead safe, balanced discussions on issues that students are deeply concerned about, we increase our opportunity to develop student–librarian rapport.

I am grateful to Lindsay Miller, the coordinator of Miami University Libraries’ involvement in the UNV 101 course for having made my participation in in UNV 101 possible. My belief is that the connections I formed with students during this course will in turn increase the likelihood that students will feel comfortable approaching librarians in the future. A librarian teaching a course such as this helps the students develop an appreciation for the librarian as a resource in and of herself. Students will be confident that not only will librarians provide them with help in accessing information, but also that they will be treated with respect and understanding.


Atwood, T. (2017, October) From Invisible to Just Within Our Sights: Constructing Pedagogical Supports for Transfer Students in Academic Libraries. Paper presented at Academic Library Association of Ohio. Columbus, Ohio.

-Anna Liss Jacobsen, Miami University

10 Tips for Successful Systematic Reviews with Students

Fall, in my library world, has become synonymous with systematic reviews (SR). It’s been quite a journey figuring out how to distill the skills needed for a successful SR into something that’s manageable for graduate students, who may have robust or very little pervious literature searching training. Despite the time intensiveness of this type of learning initiative, student feedback continues to affirm that SR can be a very effective way to deepen expertise, learn critical analysis and apply holistic perspectives. The level of engagement required opens the door to important “aha” moments for students. Discussion about the importance of good research questions, search strategy and identifying bias and spin come alive to students within the context of practicing good, evidence-based medicine or crafting evidence-based policy. It’s important to note that Systematic Reviews are not just for the health sciences. The Campbell Collaboration, the sister initiative of Cochrane, provides access to the wealth of work also being done in the social sciences, including education, crime and justice, social welfare and international development.  Systematic reviews require a team and I’m grateful to be working with the faculty and students in the Physical Therapy Department at Walsh University who have been innovative and curious, so that we can now share 10 things we’ve learned.

  • Good research questions are foundational.
    Deriving meaning from data depends on someone’s ability to mine what’s there and make real connections to people’s lives.
  • Encourage students to stay open to the process.
    Sometimes, what they don’t find is the significant discovery.
  • Effective groups organize according to skills and strengths.
    Who is great at asking the right questions; has literature searching experience; knows how to organize data; can provide analysis; is a strong writer?
  • Don’t skip the scoping searches!
    Students seem to want to skip this step, but it’s critical for identifying effective subject headings and terms, selecting resources to search, and understanding how individual databases function.
  • Subject headings may be a new concept

In a world of keyword searching, students may need help understanding how subject headings work, how they can be mined through scoping searches and how they are combined with key/textword in databases.

  • Translation between databases is challenging
    The fact that no two databases search the same way, can present a steep and unexpected learning curve for students. Consider providing resources that help students distinguish between features and field codes.
  • Relearning searching

Students may struggle with how to apply their previous research experience to the unique blend of sensitivity and specificity a SR requires. Plan on individualized research consultations and have students submit a preliminary search strategy and terms in advance.

  • Gray literature sources may not be obvious.

Explain what gray literature is, why it is important and provide examples.

  • Expect questions about exporting citations.

Each database has its own quirks. Providing tutorials for tools and resources that help with citations, exporting data, or using Excel for SR are welcome.

  • Don’t assume graduate students have literature searching experience.

Students come to graduate school with a diversity of undergraduate exposure to literature searching and may need preparation workshops or tutorials.

Recommended book: Doing a Systematic Review: A Student’s Guide by Angela Boland, Gemma Cherry and Rumona Dickson. ISBN:  978-1446269688

An effective systematic review process with students requires setting up a very structured framework. Providing an intensive combination of resources, tutorials and personalized consultation with the flexibility to accommodate a wide range of student skillsets is essential. Librarians can facilitate the lengthy SR process by keeping lines of communication open between course faculty, faculty mentors, librarians and student team leaders. Students are energized when their hard work culminates in publication, but even when it doesn’t, remind them of the value of the process. Insights are gained and new questions for exploration emerge.

-Heidi Beke-Harrigan, Member Services Coordinator, OhioNET and Adjunct Faculty, Physical Therapy Program, Walsh University


This entry was posted in Vol. 35 no. 4 (Dec 2017) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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