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PRA: Consultations

Consultation Guide

1. Say hello (Ask their name if they are a walk-in) and introduce yourself
2. Ask if they feel comfortable discussing their topic by your desk or if they'd prefer to go to the study room (They will need THEIR student ID for this!). Otherwise you can go straight to the study room for every scheduled consultation that you have. Normally, I treat walk-ins as informal and do the consultation at my desk or at their computer if they are already signed in.
3. Ask questions!
  • What are you researching?
  • What class is this for?
  • Have you done prior research or is this your first time looking?
  • Are you familiar with any of the databases?/What databases have you tried looking in?
  • How many scholarly sources do you need? (TIP sometimes a topic may be very new and likely won't have any scholarly sources on that specific topic, so you can find sources that prove a main point of their argument and then refer to RELIABLE sources such as organization or government websites for the rest.)
  • What keywords did you use in the database?
  • Do you have the prompt your professor gave you?

4. If they are unsure of their topic, take the time to talk about what is interesting them right now and don't be afraid to talk about their research topic and give them any ideas you have or information you know. So many times I've discussed current or historical events that have happened which relate to a student's topic, getting them to start collaborating and formulating their own ideas. This gives you a place to start looking and an idea of where the student may want to go with their research. Otherwise, if the confusion is on your part, try summarizing what they said and have the student correct anything you misunderstood. This is where your majors come in handy. If your major is Poli Sci and the research is on Acoustic Neuroma and you know the PRA scheduled with you is in the medical field, don't be afraid to refer them to that PRA instead. If not, try Googling or using an online Thesaurus to find out topic and key words you could use in your search.

5. Unless they already know (Ask, don't assume), show them step by step how to get to the library's databases and how you located the one you will be going to. It helps to explain why you're using that particular database.
Example: "I'm using Ebscohost Premier Collection of Databases because Ebscohost makes up the majority of our databases. So rather than try finding a specific database, we can stick to this one so we can include multiple disciplines in our search."
Also explain Boolean procedure so that they understand how the database works when trying to search for articles. Don't forget you can use "Subject Terms" from the articles to limit the results and find key words.
6. Figure out a method of how you search and look for articles (Don't forget to tell them to select "Scholarly Articles" if you're using Ebscohost!). I usually let them know to read the title first, and if it's relevant to select it and read the abstract. If it continues to show potential, open the article and if it's APA style read the very beginning, which you can identify at the top labeled "Introduction" and they very end labeled "Results" and/or "Discussion". That way they can get all the information they need without being confused by the research methods used in the article. I would recommend quickly scanning these yourself and summarize whether or not, based on your assessment, the article would pertain to their research. If you're uncertain, don't be afraid to ask if this is something they find useful, interesting, or relevant.
7. #6 Makes up the majority of your consultation. As you draw near the end, ask if they are confused about anything or need help finding anything else. It helps to remind them you help with citations and paper formatting. I recommend Purdue Owl as a guide for students to help figure out how to structure their paper and citations, again showing them where to find certain information. As an extra bonus, there is EasyBib for 8th Edition MLA and Citation Machine for APA (EasyBib charges them for APA citations). I always recommend students check with Purdue Owl just incase, not all citation makers are perfect and it's not worth losing easy points over! Just be sure to do your best to help any questions the student has, without babying them. This is their research paper and not yours, sometimes some students will need the extra help, but at a certain point you will have to end your session and give them assurance that they can always come back if they have any questions or need help.
8. If they ask you for help on writing their paper, you can tell them that the writing center is available and it is not part of your job to help them write or proofread their paper because if things didn’t turn out well, you could be blame for it.
9.  IMPORTANT: Have the student fill out the Peer Research Review! If they ask why, you can simply explain that this program is new and you're still collecting research. Or that you are getting feedback from students to see if there's anything you can do to improve your consultations for future students. There's nothing wrong with honest feedback, it can only help us and yourself. Then afterwards, it's good practice to fill out your own Reference Desk Stats immediately so you don't forget.
This step is vital for the continuation of the program and to Carrie. Try to encourage as many students as possible to fill out the survey and include your own experience and the research topic.

How to Narrow a Research Topic

How to Broaden a Research Topic