Tuesday, May 22, 2018

At Trinity & Around the World: Academic Research Education

by Serena Elavia ’14

Need help with research on your next paper or project? Maybe you have met with a research librarian or conducted all of your research through Google, but have you ever thought about meeting with a research associate? Research associates are upperclassmen students specifically trained in helping Trinity students conduct research for papers, projects or any other academic assignment. These handpicked students apply for the program during the fall semester, take a training course in the spring and then begin working in the library during the following fall. The program, which is only a year and a half old and currently in its pilot stage, was thought of by research education librarian Erin Valentino and is run by all of the librarians. Valentino wanted a program in the library that would mirror the Writing Associates program, a program that trains students to serve as writing tutors for the Trinity community. The Writing Associates program also involves taking a course before working with students. Similar to how the Writing Associates are trained in writing across all disciplines, the Research Associates are trained to have high level research skills, and do not specialize in one area. The goal is to learn how to conduct proper and effective research regardless of the discipline.

For example, one of their major class projects was to specialize in one research database and present the material. The class meets once a week on Friday afternoons, and students receive 0.5 credits for taking it. While Valentino may coordinate the course, the class is taught by all of the research librarians. When choosing the Research Associates, Valentino looks for academically successful students who have an interest in helping students hone their research skills. In addition to an application, there is also an interview component. The position is paid through a $500 stipend and Research Associates in the past have worked 50 hours over the semester, but the hours may change to being spread out for 50 hours over two semesters. Currently, Research Associates receive their most appointments through classroom referrals or by students dropping in during nighttime hours (the Associates usually sit in a small conference room near the Level A printers of the library in the 24 hour zone). While Valentino would like to expand the program and increase the number of Associates, it always comes back to the budget question and if there is enough funding. Not only is the Research Associates program beneficial to both the Associates and students, but it also helps the librarians receive feedback on the library. “The Research Associates program is another interesting way to engage with students,” says Valentino. One of the Research Associates, Erica Bertoli ’14, says that she chose to apply to the program because she enjoys doing research and wanted to teach other students how to become better researchers. “I like the program because it allows me to refine my own research skills while helping other students,” says Bertoli.

But if you’re still not convinced as to why you should see a research librarian or an Associate, Valentino and Bertoli have some words that may push you to make an appointment. Many of us have heard from professors the famous quote “Wikipedia is not a source,” but Valentino begs to differ. She says that when students begin research on a topic they should first head to Google which almost always leads to Wikipedia. According to Valentino, Wikipedia has hearty entries that provide a student with basic facts like names, dates, and locations; for Valentino, this is a great place to start research. Regarding Google, Valentino says that Google can read a student’s mind, meaning that a student can type into the Google search box exactly what they want and results appear. On the other hand, “databases cannot read student’s minds,” says Valentino. She says that when students have trouble working with a database, this is when they should visit the library to see a research librarian or research associate. Bertoli also adds that “effective research is the first step to writing an effective paper.” As the semester begins to get busier and busier, make sure you stop by the library to meet with a librarian or an associate for help with papers and projects. Appointments can be made online at http://libraryscheduler.checkappointments.com/.

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