PhD student and essayist Corinna Cook’s personal research interests include the lyric essay, literary journalism, indigenous literature and cinema, and posthumanism. As a teaching assistant, she reached out to Paula Roper for library instruction for her English 1000 courses exploring mass incarceration. Both her on-ground and online students benefited from Paula’s help navigating library resources related to the course’s theme and their specific research assignment.
Corinna’s students read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and then identified an aspect they’d like to research and consider from other perspectives. They were required to consult a source cited in the original text in their research essays. As Corinna says, “Her book incorporates an enormous amount of research, so virtually any passage/topic they’ve chosen to supplement will include references and citations.” Paula concurs, “Alexander uses citations from a wide range of materials including books, books chapter, magazines, journals, newspapers, reports, and court cases.” In terms of their own research, students were also required to use one popular and one scholarly source.
For the in-person library session, Paula introduced students to the library and demonstrated the stages of research required for the assignment. Corinna says, “Paula incorporated passages from Alexander’s book, linked them to references from Alexander’s endnotes, and demonstrated research steps that exactly mimicked the assignment’s requirements. Paula was also on board as our class librarian: she met with students one-on-one, answered emails, and supported individual research processes as needed.”
Paula then adapted this lesson, splitting the information into smaller lessons Corinna could integrate into her online course. One lesson illustrated how to use Discover@MU to find articles from popular publications, while the other focused on how to find the sources cited in The New Jim Crow. Corinna describes the lessons as “clear and detailed,” including links to resources from the library and beyond. “Again,” she says, the lessons were “specific to students’ assignment of doing supplemental research responding to The New Jim Crow.” Paula encourages students to reach out for assistance after the library instruction session if they need further assistance, but if they don’t, “it might indicate that the lessons served to answer questions they may have had regarding the library research needed for their work.”
Paula calls Corinna “a clearly dedicated and enthusiastic English 1000 instructor.” She says, “As an important part of the university’s educational effort, the Libraries encourage participation in these collaborative opportunities. Workload considerations coupled with the responsibility for designing lessons demonstrating some of the intricate complexities of research made this effort challenging but worthwhile.” She looks forward to more successful collaborations, “convinced that this enhanced the educational experience of our students.”
Corinna found Paula through a circuitous route: “I think I went scrolling around through the subject librarian pages. Why did I do this? I don’t remember. Following a rabbit hole for something unrelated to teaching. Best rabbit hole ever: I found out we have a social sciences librarian affiliated with the Black Studies program who had created pages and pages of these elaborate library guides–on slam poetry, on the contemporary African diaspora, on hip hop, on historical trauma. . . . In other words, I accidentally found out there was an expert invested in teaching research skills on themes related to my own class.”
Her advice to other instructors is to contact the subject librarian in the field of your class’s theme. “Dig around, click around, do your homework,” Corinna says. “Take the initiative to introduce yourself, bring a clear plan to the table, then ask genuinely open questions and listen to the feedback.”
Cycle of Success is the idea that libraries, faculty, and students are linked; for one to truly succeed, we must all succeed. The path to success is formed by the connections between University of Missouri Libraries and faculty members, between faculty members and students, and between students and the libraries that serve them. More than just success, this is also a connection of mutual respect, support, and commitment to forward-thinking research.
If you would like to submit your own success story about how the libraries have helped your research and/or work, please use the Cycle of Success form.