The Enigma of Research and Info Skills

By: Duke Staff 

It’s that time of year when hundreds of freshmen start to ask themselves the tough questions, including, but not limited to, “Why am I taking Research & Info Skills?”

This required one-credit class is a rite of passage for Duquesne students, often taken the first semester of freshman year. For some, the class can be taken online. For others, it means gathering once a week in Gumberg Library to learn about Boolean searches, library databases and Duquesne’s plagiarism rules.

While some students might dismiss the class as unimportant, it has several tangible benefits. However, there are still steps that administrators can make to improve the Research & Info Skills experience for all students.

Marcia Rapchak is the director of the Research and Information Skills program, which is run through Gumberg Library. According to Rapchak, she works with instructors for the course to design content and assess the effectiveness of the class each year. She said R&I has been required at Duquesne since 1999.

“Our focus is on teaching students skills that will transfer to college and beyond. Students learn to be persistent researchers who find the best information,” Rapchak said in an email interview with The Duke. “Students learn how to look at information critically and evaluate information sources, and how to be ethical users and producers of information.”

Even if you don’t think your field will require you to spend a lot of quality time with the Gumberg Library QuickSearch feature, you might be surprised at how useful the class can be. Rapchak said that studies at other universities have shown that students who use their campus library and its resources tend to graduate with higher GPA’s than those who do not. No matter what your major is, you will have to do some academic writing at some point in your college career, and it will be helpful to know what your library research options are.

However, as helpful as the class might be, it does create an impediment for some student looking to take the maximum 18 credits in a semester. While academic advisors often suggest that freshmen take 16 or fewer classes during their first semester so as not to become overwhelmed, some ambitious double majors might need to take a full course load every semester. Having a required one-credit class creates a tough dilemma for these students: Do they take 16 credits and face being behind in their academic plans, or do they take 19 credits and pay an additional $1,000 dollars for the extra credit?

Offering a zero-credit option for the class or rolling it into the required Thinking & Writing or Honors Inquiry class eliminates this issue, and perhaps makes students more open to the benefits they can gain from honing their research and info skills.

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