Research Assistance Gives Student Lifetime Skill

When they need help with their writing, most UofL students know to contact the Writing Center, located in Ekstrom Library’s Learning Commons.

But what about the meat and bones of their papers: research, i.e., finding, evaluating and citing sources? For this equally challenging and unwieldy task, students have an excellent resource in the librarians in Research Assistance and Instruction (RAI), also located in Ekstrom’s Learning Commons.

Christian Bush

Photo by Ashley Triplett

A phone call or appointment made online will get students a face-to-face meeting with a research librarian, who can help them find relevant sources and learn better methods of research to benefit their future scholarship.

UofL sophomore Christian Bush is a recent convert to the benefits of research assistance. He thought such help was only available to students in higher grades.

“Students at all levels and at all times need this help, and don’t realize such a resource is available,” said Bush, a History and Asian Studies major. “When you first enter college, you have an impression that research appointments are sacrosanct; that only seniors working on their senior papers can get help.”

But after a savvy History professor suggested Bush reach out to RAI for help with his research, Bush found he could access the services himself. Required to create an archeological site profile for his class, History 341, Introduction to Egypt, Bush “did what most students do, I googled. But I couldn’t find any information on Google at all,” he said.

In particular, he needed a specific site profile from 1911 that was nowhere to be found. Exasperated, he set up an appointment with RAI online, after which the response was “lightning quick,” Bush said. “They called the next day.”

At the research appointment, RAI Librarian Sue Finley showed Bush not only the original excavation report he needed, but subsequent ones, up to modern-era excavation where ground-penetrating radar helps archeologists explore  underground tombs.

“I got a wealth of information,” Bush said. “More than enough to write my paper, and then some.”

But beyond helping with his immediate needs, Finley “took me through her methodology for locating the sources. She spent a good amount of time showing me how to use databases and work with sources, the nitty-gritty of the research.”

“If I hadn’t been able to meet with her I wouldn’t have had such a strong research base and it would have made the profile much less substantial,” he continued. “The fact that she taught me how to research and how to go through sources and then use the sources within sources; that’s benefited me outside that project.”

“A paper is only as strong as your writing skills and your research; if you don’t have solid research, there’s only so much you can do.”

The short-term results were important to Bush, too: “I got an A on the paper,” he said, smiling.



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