Yesterday morning I wrote about the challenge of getting students to use resources like academic databases and digital archives in their research. This morning I received an email from a reader who asked if I could share an example or ideas of how to encourage students to use digital archives in their research. The following are three suggestions that quickly came to my mind.
A simple way to encourage use of academic databases and digital archives is by showing them how to navigate those resources. For many students the obstacle to using academic databases and digital archives is simply the frustration that they experience when “it doesn’t work like Google.”
A fun and effective way to encourage students to use academic databases and digital archives is to have them solve search challenges that are based upon items found in the digital archive or academic database of your choosing. When it comes to creating search challenges there is no better authority on the topic than Daniel Russell. He is the the author of The Joy of Search and Google’s Senior Research Scientist for Search Quality and User Happiness. His book and corresponding blog, SearchResearch, is full of examples of using interesting images and factoids as prompts for research practice challenges. Included below is an example of a search challenge that I created for students studying local history in Maine.
The Prompt: Everyone knows that Hannibal Hamlin (Abraham Lincoln’s first Vice President) lived on Paris Hill in Maine. What you might not know is that Paris Hill was the home of another person who participated in a notable first.
Your challenge has three parts:
- Identify the significance of the airplane pictured below.
- What is the connection between the airplane and Paris Hill?
- Find out what kind of car was driven by the person who represents the connection between the airplane and Paris Hill.
- Make or find a list of all of the people who flew on this airplane.
- Utilize resources on the Maine Memory Network website to attempt to identify the type of car driven by the person who represents the connection between the airplane and Paris Hill.
A third tactic to encourage students to utilize an academic database or digital archive in their research processes is to make it a requirement in the assignments that you give them. When they produce the bibliography for their research papers and presentations, make it a requirement that at least one or more references are drawn from one of the databases or archives that you’ve listed for them. While this can be an effective method of getting students to use academic databases, it’s not nearly as fun for you or them as solving search challenges. Try the search challenge approach first.
Want the answers? If you’re interested in the answers to this challenge, please send me an email and I’ll be happy to share them with you.
Image source: Public Domain image hosted on Wikipedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StateLibQld_1_139254_Landing_the_aircraft,_Southern_Cross_in_Brisbane,_Queensland,_ca._1928.jpg