The latest online edition of CLA's Impact Magazine

Students Hone Research Skills with Help from College Librarians

Cal Poly CLA LibrariansKennedy Library offers a variety of resources for students to use, including the one-on-one guidance from expert librarians.

Pictured above, Ryan Manning (Psychology, '15) worked with Brett Bodemer, College of Liberal Arts Librarian, on several research projects while completing his degree. With personalized guidance, Manning learned how to effectively search key databases. Manning is now pursuing a doctorate degree at the University of California Davis, studying evolutionary neurobiology. He continues to apply the research skills he learned from Bodemer.

“Everyone will need to search through a database, and sitting down with a librarian is a great way to make sure you’re on track,” Manning said.

Collaborating with librarians to research effectively

Manning first learned about the library’s research assistance during his junior year from his professor, Taylor Smith, Psychology and Child Development. The two worked together on a meta-analysis study, with Smith providing guidance as the principal investigator. Smith helped Manning plan research deadlines and manage his time, in addition to referring Manning to Bodemer.

When they started working together, Bodemer helped Manning find relevant studies. Bodemer connected him with key psychology databases and effective search terms. Beyond these basic skills, Manning also learned the differences between each database, and how to save time searching.

“When you search on the internet, there are tons of articles you could be looking at. Being able to specifically target the information you want and filter out information you don’t want is key,” he said.

With Bodemer’s help, Manning found quality studies for his meta-analysis of the relationship between birthweight and ADHD.

Building on foundational research skills

Guidance from a college librarian saved Manning time and helped him arrive at his desired results. After building a relationship with Bodemer in his junior year, Manning came back for help with his final senior project, another ambitious meta-analysis. In that project, Manning needed to navigate each database’s features to optimize search results. Some of the databases Bodemer showed Manning included: PubMed, EBSCO, Science Direct and Web of Science.

“Brett showed us to use tools in each database and that’s something that would have taken us a long time,” Manning said. “PubMed has a lot of different terms and I would have never been able to use them in our project if it weren’t for Brett.”

Taking valuable lessons to graduate school

By working with a college librarian, Manning came to graduate school more prepared than he would have been otherwise.

“The most valuable thing is what it’s given me now as a grad student,” he said.

In graduate school, weekly homework assignments typically include a reading of five to six articles, each 30 pages. Manning said that without the search optimization skills Bodemer taught him as an undergraduate student, he would be a less efficient researcher.

Overall, Manning recommends the librarians as a useful resource that undergraduates should take advantage of, especially when planning research projects.

“The resources are great. If you want to write a well-written paper for senior projects or internships, there are certain points where you want to sit down with a librarian,” he said.

Kennedy Library has a college librarian for all six of Cal Poly’s colleges, in addition to others who support specific programs. They are available during normal business hours for collaboration with students. 

Article originally appeared on Kennedy Library's website. 

Read the most recent stories in The Link

Related Content