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Inquiry Toolkit: A Guide for Faculty in Course Development

Library Research Kit: Supporting Student Inquiry

Students completing face-to-face, blended, or online courses that include research assignments can benefit from a Library Research Kit from within their course management system. Research projects are a standard part of post-secondary curricula and involve determining a research focus, gathering and evaluating evidence, and using it to create arguments.

A Library Research Kit tab can include methods to identify and measure research  learning outcomes that meet the standards for best practice in information literacy development in higher education (ACRL, 2012). See the Graduate Diploma in Professional Inquiry for a Queen's open access example.

Rather than linking directly to the library homepage and hoping students will discover the best resources from there, a research kit  page could include any of the following:

  • Inquiry expectations for the course. Queen’s University advocates development of a set of academic literacies: critical reading, effective writing and communication, numeracy, inquiry, critical thinking, problem solving, information literacy, academic integrity, effective collaboration, and intercultural literacy. Stating the research skill outcomes orients students to these parallel course expectations.
  • Recommended research and reference tools. Selected research databases provide better starting points than general web searches for retrieval of scholarly articles. Few research assignments direct novice researchers to recommended information tools (Head, 2010) resulting in a frustrating inquiry experience. Reference tools provide subject-specific context in content areas new to the student. Academic handbooks and encyclopedias provide conceptual frameworks and background information. Finding “context” is identified as the most difficult aspect of inquiry for graduating students according to Project Information Literacy research (Head, 2009).
  • Learning objects such as tutorials, guides, videos that support the development of academic literacies. An example is the Queen’s Sociology 122 online research skills tutorial designed for first-year students. These objects are created by librarians and target online resources for use in virtual learning environments.
  • Research assessment tools that give feedback to students on their research competencies before and after the inquiry assignment making the connection with learning objects that reinforce development of inquiry skills. Results can be analyzed to identify gaps in learning support. Marking rubrics may be used by librarians, peer students, or faculty to evaluate the research assignments but also to guide the students while preparing their work.


American College & Research Libraries Information Literacy Best Practices Committee. (2012). Characteristics of programs of information literacy that illustrate best practices: A guideline. College & Research Libraries News, 73(6), 355–359.

Head, A. J. (2009). Finding context: What today’s college students say about conducting research in the digital age. Seattle WA: Washington University, Project Information Literacy.

Head, A. J. (2010). Assigning inquiry: How handouts for research assignments guide today’s college students. Seattle WA: Washington University, Project Information Literacy.

Head, A. J. (2013). Learning the ropes: How freshmen conduct research once they enter college. Project Information Literacy. Seattle WA: Washington University, Project Information Literacy.