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ARE YOU READY FOR THE FUTURE?. Top 10 Skills SFU & UBC Librarians and Profs Want 1 st Year Students to Have. Prepared by Chris Ball, UBC Library and Hope Power, SFU Library. How to search for a book, then use the call number to locate it in the stacks.

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Top 10 Skills SFU & UBC Librarians and Profs Want 1st Year Students to Have

Prepared by Chris Ball, UBC Library and Hope Power, SFU Library

  • How to search for a book, then use the call number to locate it in the stacks.

  • Know the difference between a book and a journal. How to tell from a citation the type of source you are looking for.

  • The reason why and how to cite a source. ( is useful, but you need to know if it’s done correctly).

  • How to identify a scholarly source vs. a popular source, and primary vs. secondary sources – and know how to use them.

  • Using google vs. using databases – what’s the benefit?

  • How to use databases such as Academic Search Premier to search for scholarly journals.

  • How to search for and critically evaluate websites (government, personal, commercial, academic).

  • Understand what plagiarism is. The web has made “lifting” text, images, and audio so easy that you must understand the fine line between extensive quoting and misrepresenting something as your own. Remember Academic Honesty?

  • How to formulate a research question and develop a thesis statement, and then use research to support that statement. This is a core skill for any discipline.

  • Help is available and it’s OK to ask someone, (how about a librarian?), for guidance. The only “stupid question” is the one that doesn’t get asked!

And what do other post-secondary institutions say about this list?

“Thanks for this succinct and thoughtful list!” – Capilano University

“It would be a huge help if students came into the university system with at least one of these skills!” – Vancouver Island University

“Comparing your Top 10 list to our list of undergraduate research tips, we are pretty much on the same page!” – University of Victoria

“This is a pretty comprehensive list and frankly, I’d be happy if 2nd+ Year students could do all of this!” – Royal Roads University

More Feedback: And what about …?

“Another point you might make is searching for and within an electronic book” – Vancouver Island University

“One final skill that is not explicit in your list is an understanding of the information cycle -- both for content and time frame … Can you list the Top 11??” – Langara College

There is more …

Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations questionnaire (2009) of faculty and librarians:

Over 55% think that 1st year students are less prepared for university education than students from just 3 years ago


  • The profs most often reported the following challenges among 1st year students:

    • Lower level of maturity

    • Lack of required writing, mathematical and critical thinking skills

    • Poor research skills as evidenced by an over-reliance on Internet tools like Wikipedia as external research sources

    • Expectation of success without the requisite effort

    • Inability to learn independently

And what do the university students say?

What Today’s College Students Say about Conducting Research in the Digital Age:Head-Eisenberg survey (2009) identifies common, course-related research challenges:

Information overload (e.g. the more you know, the less you know; it is depressing)

Too much irrelevant information; cannot locate what is needed from the online results

Trying to find the ‘perfect source’

Trouble finding books needed on library shelves

Can find the citation online, but cannot find the fulltext article in a database

Finding statistical information online, etc.

Did you know 3.0

So what is to be done?

The top 3 keys to success:




Study Skills

  • Make good habits. Studies say it takes 21 days to make a new habit.

  • Plan (i.e. write in) study time into your daily schedule as you would any other appointment.

Organize Your Study Space

  • Find a quiet, comfortable (but not lying on your bed!) place away from distractions, have: tools at hand, good lighting, fresh air, not too hot

Organization and Planning Tips

  • Set personal goals/priorities – write them down & post them near your study space: set long and short term goals

  • Break down large tasks into smaller chunks

  • Be an active learner

  • Discipline yourself

  • Be persistent

Set yourself deadlines – and stick to them!

“The job will always stretch to fill the time available.”

If you establish a schedule where you routinely stay up late at night, it will seem normal to stay up late, and in fact you will stay up late!

We are VISUAL learners

Organize your notes: Turn your notes into diagrams, cartoons, concept maps or flow charts – use lots of colour

Use visualization for new vocabulary and concepts

  • Make associations with images, and hold that in your mind’s eye for at least 10 seconds.

  • For example, the Japanese word ‘ahiru’ means ‘duck.’ So, you can imagine a duck with ‘a hero’ badge. Or ‘kaki’ means ‘oyster,’ so imagine a ‘car key’ made of oyster shell, etc.

The goal of any study strategyshould be review

Information is rapidly forgotten – to counter this you must convert short term memoryinto long term memory

What happens to new information over time?

What about with review?

Short term memory has become long term memory

Make the information relevant

If it has no significance or meaning to you why would your brain retain it?

Find a way to make the information important. Does it fit with your life’s plan?

Tie new information to prior knowledge

  • Make abstract ideas into something concrete and tangible.

  • We remember experiences more vividly than cold facts. Bring your study to life in your mind.

  • Use mnemonics (rhymes or acronyms used to aid memory). Ex: “Every Adult Dog Grows Big Ears” are the strings of a guitar.

Other Tips:

  • Don’t forget to back up your work regularly

  • Email yourself a copy of your assignment: use rich text format (.rtf)

  • Take regular breaks (5 min/hr). Make your break active – do some jumping jacks!

  • In-class essays – plan for at least 5 minutes by preparing an outline before you start writing

Studies show…

Students who read for pleasure regularly do better in all subject areas.

As Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited.”

Sasse, Arthur. Einstein's tongue. 1951. Flickr. Web. 5 Jan. 2009.

Play sudoku and read aloud whenever you can!

" Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!: Nintendo DS." N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2010. <>.

Find a group to study with.Make it fun!

Research: The Overview

Researching is like being an information detective; you will have to:

  • Follow clues

  • Track down a variety of sources

  • Narrow in on a topic

    • Interesting

    • Manageable

  • Compile your data

    • Take careful notes

    • Record your sources

  • Be selective, critical and organized

  • Present your evidence

  • Cite your sources


Define Your Topic

  • Start with an idea, then use

    • A dictionary: define your terms

    • General background information from encyclopaedias, etc.

  • Next: skim & scan

    • Specialized reference materials

  • Build an outline = a game plan for your research

  • Final goal:

    • Narrow down or expand your final topic

      • Must be manageable

Information Gathering:Finding The Right Tool for the Job

  • When are books a good idea?

  • When is wikipedia or a general internet search a good idea? (Surface Web)

  • When are the databases a good idea? (Deep Web)

  • Learn how to limit your search (- and + in google, Boolean searching, advanced search options).

  • What are other options?

    • specific subject search engines (ex, interview an expert, search out transcripts, read your textbook!

Information Gathering:Dealing with copious amounts of information

  • Do not just do it all the night before! Set a project schedule.

  • Keep a research journal

  • Synthesize the information

    • an active process

  • Taking notes: summarize, paraphrase or direct quotation

    • be strict about recording bibliographic data

    • clearly indicate your own words

Information Gathering: Finding Scholarly Sources Using Academic Search Premier

  • Chemistry: Journal of Chemical Physics, Clinical and Laboratory Medicine, Mini-Reviews in Organic Chemistry.

  • Physics: Journal of Applied Physics, Contemporary Physics, AIP (American Institute of Physics) Conference Proceedings.

  • Biology: Bioscience, Molecular Ecology, BMC (Bioinformatics)

  • Geography: Geographical Review, Social and Cultural Geography, Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography

  • Psychology: North American Journal of Psychology, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Journal of Counseling and Development

  • History: History Today, Journal of American History, Journal of Social History

  • English: *remember not to look at criticism until your 2nd draft – come up with your own direction first! Journal of Modern Literature, Papers on Language and Literature, Narrative

Academic Honesty

"Academic honesty must be seen as a set of values and skills that promote personal integrity and good practice in teaching, learning and assessment."  

Academic Honesty, IBO document

Works Cited

  • Only add resources that you have used

  • Do not make up citations, or guess about the information

  • Check with your sponsor regularly – formatting is a terrible way to lose marks!

  • Check your EE package for more info.

Library Web Page Highlights*Link to Webcat and Databases (Our Digital Library)*Fine Literature List*2009 MLA guidelines*Research Tools*This Powerpoint & Top 10 list!

Remember, Churchill Library has great resources!


Point #10: Help is available and it’s OK to ask for guidance. The only “stupid question” is the one that doesn’t get asked!

And don’t forget !to take time for fun and relaxation – overloading your brain can be counterproductive!

The End…

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