Course teaches students about Internet research

By Felix Sarver and Erin Kolb

A new course created by NIU University Libraries debuted yesterday.

Introduction to Library and Information Research aims to improve the library research skills of students. Nestor Osorio, head of the references and research department, said this is the first course that teaches these skills at NIU, even though this kind of course is common at other universities.

“This course can be used by the entire student population,” Osorio said. “We hope it’ll become popular after students take it.”

Many students today have different research skills than before, said Wendell Johnson, an NIU social sciences librarian. Students usually use the Internet to do research for classes, but are not aware of how to make the Internet and other resources effective.

“You look at the bibliographies and it’s interesting to see,” Johnson said of the research he’s read by students.

The new course will teach students to make use of searching strategies when researching academic and popular information, while also knowing how to evaluate the information being researched, Johnson said.

As an example, there are three standards students should use to evaluate a website, Johnson said. They should see if the website content was produced by experts, if the information is current and if there is a bias. Biased information is not bad, but the student should be aware of any bias, Johnson said.

These standards make sure the information being researched is authoritative and students do not confuse opinion with data or peer-reviewed information, Johnson said.

Osorio said while the class is open to all students, the idea was for it to be used by freshmen so they could acquire the skills they’ll need for the rest of their college career.

“I can’t guarantee grades will go up, but if you take something like this, it’ll pay dividends over the years,” Johnson said.

Senior geography major Eileen Neuffer said she only does academic research through resources on the NIU website, but will sometimes use Google. She said she never learned effective research techniques.

“I’d like to learn to be more attentive,” Neuffer said.

The course will be taught in smart classrooms and have hands-on activities, Osorio said. Four sections of the class are being offered this fall semester through Themed Learning Communities, Research Rookies and the University Honors program.