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Library Instruction

Outlines options available to faculty to ask a librarian to provide research skills instruction for a course, both online and in-person.

What we teach

Library instruction is based on the ACRL Framework for information literacy Topics include:

Evaluating authority

Authority is a type of influence that comes from information creators’ expertise and credibility. There can be different perspectives about what constitutes authority and biases that privilege some types of authority over others. How you evaluate authority depends on the task at hand.

Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize different types of authority, such as subject expertise
  • Use indicators of authority to determine if a source meets a specific information need
  • Evaluate information with a skeptical stance and an awareness of bias

Possible instruction/workshop topics

  • Evaluating sources
  • Evaluating information in different contexts
Understanding types of information

Different types of information (e.g. peer-reviewed articles) go through different processes of creation and dissemination, which are integral to the final product. Various information types are valued and used differently depending on the context (e.g. academia or the workplace).

Learning Outcomes

  • Distinguish between common categories of sources (e.g. scholarly and popular)
  • Determine the creation processes behind different types of information
  • Choose a type of information that is appropriate for a particular need

Possible instruction/workshop topics

  • Scholarly vs popular sources
  • Peer-review process
  • Types of information
  • Primary sources
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Scholarly publishing
  • Where to publish
  • Research data management
Using information ethically

Using information ethically means understanding the rights and responsibilities of participating in scholarship, including concepts such as academic integrity and copyright. Information ethics involves recognizing how information systems can marginalize certain voices.

Learning Outcomes

  • Credit others’ ideas through accurate citation and proper use of sources
  • Discuss concepts related to the political economy of information (e.g. using licensed content, commodification of personal information, information production, access, and privilege)
  • Consider authors’ rights in the context of various scholarly publishing models

Possible instruction/workshop topics

  • Citing sources
  • Academic integrity and plagiarism
  • Using sources as evidence
  • Citation management
  • Copyright
  • Open access journals
  • Predatory journals
Researching through inquiry

Research is an iterative process based on asking questions and developing new lines of inquiry. The process includes conducting open-ended background research, refining research questions, and exploring diverse perspectives on a topic.

Learning Outcomes

  • Formulate research questions that have the right scope for a specific project
  • Seek multiple perspectives while gathering information
  • Synthesize and analyze ideas that come from many different sources

Possible instruction/workshop topics

  • Developing a research question
  • Focusing/narrowing a topic
  • Synthesizing sources
  • Improving or developing a thesis
  • Incorporating or using sources effectively
Searching strategically

Searching for information is often a nonlinear process that can take unexpected turns, so it requires strategy. Determining what to search for, where to search, how to search, and how to manage results are all part of an effective search strategy.

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify the type of information needed (e.g. news article)
  • Select appropriate search tools
  • Develop a search strategy, evaluate the results, and revise it as needed
  • Use various types of searching language effectively (e.g. keywords and subject headings)

Possible instruction/workshop topics

  • Selecting an appropriate search tool and using it effectively
  • Doing background research and using reference tools
  • Finding different types of information (e.g. scholarly or primary sources; industry, company or market information, scores, government information, data and statistics, news sources, legal information)
  • Finding specific information (e.g. finding an article from a citation)
  • Creating and revising search strategies
  • Using search language effectively (keywords, subjects, Boolean)
  • Broadening or narrowing search concepts
Participating in scholarly conversations

Scholarly conversations occur among communities of researchers who engage with one another’s ideas. The conversations are ongoing, shift over time, and can include competing perspectives. To enter scholarly conversations, researchers need to gain familiarity with the sources, methods, and discourse in their area of research.

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop strategies for reading scholarly texts
  • Identify key scholars and landmark studies on a topic
  • Situate a source within the context of ongoing conversations about a topic

Possible instruction/workshop topics

  • Identifying key scholars
  • Annotated bibliographies
  • Literature reviews
  • Cited reference searching
  • How to read a scholarly article
For undergraduate students

Librarians can help your students learn a variety of research skills, including how to focus a topic, find and evaluate good sources, use and cite sources properly.

Our sessions are available year-round (including evening and summer classes) and are tailored in content and format to meet your needs. A librarian can come to your class, or if under 25 students on the Waterloo Campus, we can meet in the Library's Instruction Room. Options include:

  • a quick 5 minute drop-in to acquaint your students with our services
  • short in-class session(s) as a basic introduction to a research skill
  • longer, more in-depth session(s) for more advanced research skills
  • advice on designing assignments that help students learn and practice research skills
  • session(s) arranged outside of your regular class time

Interested in a session? Talk with your Subject Librarian about how we can help integrate effective research skills into your course. 

No time for a visit to your class? Check out our online instruction options.

For graduate students

Discipline-specific workshops

Each discipline has a Subject Librarian who works closely with graduate students to meet their research needs. We can visit graduate classes to deliver discipline-specific research sessions. Faculty can also contact their Subject Librarian to request a session from our general workshop series for a group of graduate students.

General workshop series

The Library offers the following workshops each year. Please check the Library Workshops page or the ASPIRE calendar for upcoming dates.

Several of these workshops are available fully online through MyLearningSpace. To access them, sign into MyLearningSpace, choose Self Registration from the top navigation bar, and select Library Research Workshops from the list of course options. Workshops are available as self-paced modules within this course.

Citing insights: sites to help you cite

Between multiple browser tabs, downloaded pdfs, and scraps of paper tucked in your binder, it is possible that your important research materials lie in multiple locations. Did you know there are tools available to help you manage all of your research and citations that you collect while doing research? In this workshop we look at how citation and document management tools can help keep your research work organized and save you time when you need to prepare properly formatted bibliographies and in-text citations in MS Word. This workshop covers the advantages and disadvantages of two tools: Zotero and Mendeley.

If you cannot attend a scheduled session, or if you have a group or class that would like a personalized workshop, contact Greg Sennema.

Creating a research question

A good research question is the foundation for a successful research project. Learn strategies for creating a focused question that will streamline your thesis or dissertation research and help you finish on time.

Finding government policy & its analysis

Finding public (government) policy can be daunting. Finding analysis of any given government policy before, during and after a policy’s implementation can be even more overwhelming. Learn some strategies for hunting down not only the policy documents, but also the steps that led up to the creation of the policy in the first place. Discover some ways to find out about the reception, impact, and analysis of the policy, including how you might consider the merits of these arguments.

Finding legislation & its analysis

Even if you’re a Law student, finding Legislation (Bills, Statutes, Acts, Laws, Regulations), how it’s been used in court, and what the legal community thinks of it all, can be overwhelming! Learn about the legislative process to produce our laws, and how you can track a Bill to its final destination, a Statute. Find out, too, how to start looking for analytical information about these legal instruments, including analysis of their coming into force, their use in court proceedings, and their impact on individuals and society.

Keeping your research data safe with data management planning

Where do you store your research? Who has access to your files? What must you do to preserve your work after the project ends? The management of your research data is now a critical part of scholarship in Canada. This session will introduce you to research data management (RDM) and to data management plans (DMPs), a key part of many grant applications today. We will discuss things such as research data ethics, access, and metadata. This is a learn-by-doing session: participants will use Laurier Library's free tools to write their own data management plans to bring back to their teams and research advisors. Long-term consultation and support is also available. This session is open to both graduate students and faculty. Learning outcomes include: learn about research data management, write a data management plan for your own research at Laurier, and learn where to store your research data based on your safety, access, and security needs.

Planning a literature review

Need to write a literature review? Learn how to plan, research and organize one successfully for your thesis or dissertation, and decide on a focus and scope for your review.

Publication & promotion: more reach for your research

Where should you publish? How should you publish? How do you choose the right journal and avoid the bad? Identify options for publishing, emerging tools, managing online profiles, privacy, copyright, and alternative metrics (altmetrics) to track output. Will include data, peer review, open access and co-authorship as well as online social networks like ResearchGate and

Searching for Scholarly Literature

Learn about advanced methods for searching databases to find relevant scholarly literature about a research topic.

Using StatCan and Ipsos Canada data in your research

The Laurier Library has a vast collection of socio-economic data from Statistics Canada and Ipsos Canada for use in your research. These include surveys, data, tables and GIS resources essential to research in fields such as health, economics, labour, education, politics, and geography. This session will show you how to access and search this collection, with some additional hints on finding American and international data for your work. Learning outcomes include how to find StatCan resources at Laurier, how to use codebooks and questionnaires to understand data points and statistics, and how to find and use the Ipsos Canada public opinion polling collection.

Online options

For all courses

We can support your students online by:

  • Creating resources on the Library web site that you can refer students to or link to in MyLearningSpace, including:
  • Providing online MyLearningSpace content that you can use in your course, including our Understanding Plagiarism module.
  • Providing personalized support from within your course in MyLearningSpace. We can upload relevant Library resources and instructional content, alert students to Library services through email, or answer student questions through discussion boards. For how to add a librarian, see Add a librarian to your MyLearningSpace course.

For online courses

In addition to the services listed above, for online courses we can:

  • Teach live online research skills sessions (via Adobe Connect webinar software)
  • Provide individual student research appointments through email or online

For graduate students

Several fully online self-paced workshops are available for graduate students through MyLearningSpace. Access is through self-registration: sign into MyLearningSpace, click on Self Registration in the top navigation bar, and choose Library Research Workshops from the list of course options.

Examples of past workshops and sessions

Undergraduate students

  1. Collaboration with an instructor to create a course assignment on finding research materials, including training for TAs on implementing the assignment and an in-class visit by the librarian to introduce students to the skills needed
  2. An in-class session for an upper year class to help students develop skills needed to create a research proposal, followed by required meetings for each student with the librarian to discuss their research strategies.
  3. Two sessions for a class, held outside of class time with bonus grades for attendance. One helped students focus a topic and find scholarly sources, and the second helped students synthesize information from their sources to create arguments.
  4. An in-class session where students watch some online library tutorials ahead of time, then practice creating good searches and finding the 'right' sources during the session, followed by a short quiz.

Graduate students

  1. A session on finding scholarly and other specialized materials in the discipline, followed by student completion of a library research assignment as one component of the first course assignment.
  2. Four sessions as part of a required course, designed to help students with their MRP proposal. Sessions include advanced research, citation tools, creating a research question, and planning a literature review.


  1. Creation of online course guides to help students with research for an assignment, which are posted in MyLearningSpace and form part of the assignment instructions.
  2. A live online session on finding scholarly sources for an online class, delivered during a chat session slot using webinar software.
  3. A librarian added to a MyLearningSpace course, posting resources to help students with focusing topics, finding scholarly sources, and citing, and sending email to encourage students to make appointments with the librarian for help.
What people say about our instruction
  • "Library staff have been very very helpful in working with my undergrad classes to help them develop effective literature searching and interpretation skills” (faculty member)
  • “For several years now, the library [has] provided excellent, specialized support for students writing final papers in my online course by offering interactive presentations on various stages in the research process” (faculty member)
  • "I learned it's all about how and where you search" (undergraduate)
  • "This class was awesome! Wish I'd had something like this in first year" (3rd year student)
  • "Very informative session - more students should know about this" (graduate student)
To request Library instruction for your course

Contact your Subject Librarian

Page Owner: Meredith Fischer

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Last Updated: July 7, 2023 10:01am