Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
January 7, 2000

Program helps student researchers find the right sites

by Diana Pounds
A few years ago, students working on research papers started at the library -- home of Britannica, Who's Whoand tiers full of scholarly abstracts. Today, many of those students start at Yahoo. And while the popular Web search engine may point students to some scholarly works, it also points them to information that is unscholarly, unsubstantiated and, occasionally, untrue.

To help students learn to distinguish between worthy and unworthy sources, library faculty are partnering with individual faculty in a new initiative dubbed the "Undergrad Commons."

As part of the project, library staff and teaching faculty redesign course content to use electronic resources, said project leader and library faculty member Kathleen Kern.

The project integrates teaching information systems with the actual course work, Kern said. A Web site developed for each course provides students with print and electronic library and Internet resources that are most pertinent to their research assignments. Through special assignments and perhaps, an in-class lecture from library staff, students learn to locate and evaluate sources, especially the Web-based ones.

"Undergraduates are at risk of being overwhelmed with the vast amount of resources, particularly electronic, that are available," Kern said. "They don't know where to start. We show them where to start and how to increase their information-seeking and research skills."

The Undergrad Commons is jointly funded by the ISU Library and a $300,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Trust. So far, approximately 10 high-enrollment undergraduate courses, including Speech Communication 212 and Philosophy 201, are part of the project. The list of classes and other information about Undergrad Commons is available at

Faculty who are interested in the program should contact Kern, 4-6863,

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