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Finding Your Way around the Engineering Literature: Developing an Online Tutorial Series for Engineering Students

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Information Literacy: Theory and Practice

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.714.1 - 22.714.11

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Paper Authors


Janet Fransen University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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Janet Fransen is the librarian for Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Computer Science & Engineering, and History of Science & Technology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Jan earned her MLIS from Dominican University/College of St. Catherine in 2008, joining the library world after two decades as a computer programmer, trainer, and writer. Her undergraduate degrees are from the University of Minnesota: a B.A. in Speech-Communication, and a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics.

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Finding Your Way around the Engineering Literature: Developing an Online Tutorial Series for Engineering StudentsThe typical graduate student in engineering or computer science excels at learning technicalskills, but has had little exposure to library resources in his or her undergraduate program.Sometime in the first year of graduate school, most students are asked to do a literature searchfor a class, or are beginning to look at prior work as they decide on a focus for their graduateresearch. At that point, they realize that they won’t be able to find everything they need withtheir current set of Web-searching tools and skills.Clearly, graduate students need ongoing instruction in the types of literature available in theirfields, why they might use items in each type, and how to find appropriate materials within thosetypes. Online instruction provides a way to inform and guide students when they need it.Even the best instruction will not help if students don’t find it. One effective way to reachgraduate students is through their instructors and advisors. Therefore, the tutorial series describedin this paper is being developed with input from a faculty advisory group. The series includesfeatures that both support learning objectives and help faculty orient new students to theliterature specific to their coursework and labs, leading to buy-in and promotion from the facultymembers themselves.The series is organized around a central “hub” (see Figure 1), designed to teach students whenand why they might use a specific tool. The hub introduces students to a range of engineeringliterature and provides an entry point to further instruction, such as modules that teach studentseffective search techniques in tools like Engineering Village.An instance of this hub can be customized for a course or for a research lab. For example, amodule describing the role of conference proceedings uses citations from a conference in whichmembers of the research lab presented. The module also lists conferences relevant to the lab’swork and links students to the proceedings. With this structure, the student experiencesinstruction in a context relevant to their real-life environment, and the lab director is able to bringstudents up to speed in the work of the lab more quickly.In addition to these practical goals, the tutorial series seeks to fulfill specific objectives. Studentswill: • Understand that as affiliates of the college they have many different resources at their fingertips. • Differentiate between the types of primary and secondary literature most common in engineering. • Determine which resource or resources make the most sense for their field of research and current information need. • Find out how to get access to the full text of a desired citation through a library subscription, or freely-available resource such as • Choose appropriate search tools and use effective and efficient search strategies with those tools.Figure 1. Tutorials are organized around general categories of engineering literature.

Fransen, J. (2011, June), Finding Your Way around the Engineering Literature: Developing an Online Tutorial Series for Engineering Students Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

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