Concordia students’ hidden advantage
On his computer screen, Vince Graziano, a librarian at Concordia’s Webster Library, displays an old photograph of a woman dancing on a stage. It was taken in December 1879 during the first production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen.
Graziano found the digital image using an online database called Literature Criticism Online, just one of many subject-specific resources available to all Concordia students and accessible anywhere through the Libraries web page.
Finding something as obscure as the Ibsen photograph is easy enough if you’re familiar with the library’s search tools, Graziano says. If you’re not, it may take you a while.
The best place to start any research project is with a librarian, he insists. “So often students say, ‘Wow! You did that so quickly. I've been searching for four days!' And I just say, ‘You know, sometimes a librarian can save you time.’”
Concordia’s librarians are always willing to share information literacy tips to help students better understand the search process and navigate the libraries’ collections to discover valuable information and resources. Greater information literacy also facilitates the analysis and evaluation of information to produce higher quality research, which translates into greater student success.
Requests for help come in all sizes, says Michelle Lake, a political science subject librarian. Some students may just need assistance finding a book with CLUES, (Concordia’s online catalogue), while others may require guidance in determining what to focus on for a major research project, such as a master’s thesis.
“In a lot of cases it's just getting them comfortable with the idea of where to start in the information-gathering process –– how to explore their idea for a topic and figure out what kind of sources are going to be best for them. Part of developing students’ research skills involves showing them how to critically analyze the information they find,” she says.
Throughout the year, Concordia’s libraries offer a range of workshops designed to help both graduate and undergraduate students develop better research skills. They include basic introductory sessions on how to use the library, sessions on how to plan and research term papers, and sessions on proper citation.
A key thing for students to remember when they’re approaching Concordia’s librarians for help with their research is that there’s no such thing as a dumb question, says Pamela Carson, web services librarian.
“A lot of students are reluctant to ask a librarian for help because they feel like they should be more well-versed in research. But this is not the case. It's much easier for us to answer their questions early on. I think we can save them a lot of time and a lot of frustration.”
In other words, before committing to your research topic, you might want to check with a librarian.
“Once we’re sure we know what they’re after, then we’ll keep building on it,” Carson says. “We’ll do some searches, see what's available and see what else comes up when we're searching. If nothing comes up, we’ll maybe modify the question a bit; narrow it down, or broaden it. It's an iterative process.”
It’s also, in Carson’s opinion, the best part of a librarian’s job.
“That's when we have fun –– when students come to us and asks us for our help. They usually have really interesting ideas.”
Students can make an appointment with a librarian at either the Vanier Library on Concordia’s Loyola Campus or at the Webster Library downtown, or online through the Ask a Librarian service. They can also approach the reference desk for more general assistance.
Do you want to improve your research skills? Sign up for a library workshop.