PRIMO Site of the Month: October 2019


Reading Scholarly Articles

 Institution:  Oakland University

Guest Username: sourcesgt, Guest Password: libsrc

Creators:     Amanda Nichols Hess & Joanna Thielen

Interviewees:  Amanda Nichols Hess & Joanna Thielen

Interviewer:  Rachel M. Cooke

Description of Project (provided by creators): Reading Scholarly Articles is a three-lesson, freestanding e-learning course that students can enroll in to learn more about effectively understanding peer-reviewed articles. The lessons provide chunked information with formative assessment opportunities throughout so that students can check their understanding about the concepts addressed. Students can select from a number of discipline-specific articles and formative assessment options so that they can get hands-on, practical experience in their subject area. The outcomes for this e-learning resource are that, upon completion, students should be able to:

  • Describe the kinds of information they will find in scholarly and popular articles, and identify the differences between these kinds of resources;
  • Identify the sections of a scholarly article as well as the kinds of information they can expect to find in each section; and
  • Explain strategies to read scholarly articles meaningfully and intentionally, and pick out the strategies that will be most useful as they read scholarly articles in their discipline.

Once students have worked through the three lessons, in order, they can take a quiz to test their knowledge; a score of at least 80% earns the Reading Scholarly Articles badge, which is a static credential of completion.

Q: This tutorial is remarkably comprehensive.  I found the examples of scholarship across disciplines very helpful, as well as the common characteristics of scholarly articles.  How did the team decide on what to include?

 A: Well, we started this project with a really strong foundation in place — Joanna teaches biological sciences and chemistry students about reading scholarly articles in an in-class workshop. She shared her instructional approach in an informal workshop with our colleagues, and Amanda thought the same kind of content could be really useful for the graduate students in the Education programs for which Amanda is the liaison librarian. Using Joanna’s in-class presentation content as a starting point, Amanda made modifications to focus more on social sciences research. But very early in the process, we recognized that this kind of an e-learning resource would be useful for students across disciplines and that no one else on campus was teaching students this crucial skill. So, we consulted with our library colleagues who have disciplinary expertise in their liaison areas. Amanda asked them to provide representative articles from their various subject areas; fortunately, many of them responded not only with articles but with context about peer-reviewed resources in their respective disciplines. From their input, along with Joanna’s initial content, we were able to structure a tutorial that offers learning paths for students across disciplines.

Q: You mentioned that the tutorial was based on the ACRL Framework.  Can you share a bit about that?

 A: This e-learning resource is anchored in the core concepts of the Framework, although no frame explicitly addresses reading and understanding scholarly articles. In our interpretation of this document, we see this piece as an underlying assumption. For instance, instruction librarians expect students to “critically evaluate contributions made by others” and “summarize the changes in scholarly perspective over time” as they engage with scholarship as conversation. How can they do that without understanding what they’re reading? Therefore, we approached this e-learning resource as something that was helping students develop those foundational understandings necessary for the threshold concepts in the ACRL Framework.

Q: Did you encounter any copyright obstacles with posting the articles in the tutorial?

 A: Because our e-learning resource is behind a login screen — and located within one of our campus learning management systems — it is intended only for an internal audience. While we’ve opened it up for others to review and peruse, the only individuals really using the resource as a learning tool are our institution’s students and faculty. If that changes, though, we will need to shift the articles that we share to open access resources, because they aren’t right now.

Q: Were you asked to create this tutorial from departments outside the Library or was it internally motivated? How is the tutorial being used across campus? 

A: We created this e-learning resource out of our own internal motivation. However, since we’ve piloted it during Winter 2019, it’s really caught on — we’ve had faculty from across our campus make suggestions of details to incorporate or highlight, offer articles for inclusion, and require it as a part of their course experiences. We’ve had instructors at both the undergraduate and graduate levels adopt this resource in their courses, and students have even found it on their own — which is wonderful!

Q: I noticed there are a variety of people listed in the production team.    How was the work coordinated among the creators?

 A: Joanna and Amanda were really the only people who worked on this tutorial — Joanna provided the initial content, and Amanda did all of the work on the e-learning side. Amanda chunked Joanna’s content, made modifications (e.g. broadening or narrowing information, adding additional information necessary for an online learning experience), and created the different modules in our e-learning system. Our library colleagues across the disciplines did contribute articles and their subject area expertise for contextualizing these resources; we also turned to them for the pilot test. Primarily, Amanda worked with the content, consulted with Joanna when something was ready for review, made modifications as needed, and solicited feedback among our colleagues.

Q: The design of the tutorial looks like it was created in some sort of course management system. Does this tutorial exist within your institution’s CMS? If so, did this help with course integration?

 A: Our tutorial was created in an instance of Moodle, which our institution uses as its CMS. However, we have to create any e-learning objects in a separate instance of the CMS — one that exists outside of students’ actual online course iterations. This layer can make it a bit challenging to integrate into the online course experience, because students have to log into another, but identical, system to access the content. However, students are familiar with it — it looks just like the course management system, and we offer several other freestanding e-learning courses in this same platform that are highly used (i.e., an e-course on plagiarism and academic integrity). While it’s not perfect, using this system allows us to collect data and provide content securely, and it allows students to log in with their campus usernames and passwords.

Q: The tutorials included questions for assessment.  Do you collect data from these, and, if so, what have they shown you?

 A: We have collected some pilot data, and it’s been very interesting to see — we have students enrolled from across the curriculum, largely at the undergraduate level. Most students who have used the tutorial have been assigned it for a class, and the majority pass on the first attempt (they have unlimited attempts, even after achieving a passing grade of 80%+). The questions that students seem to struggle the most with relate to understanding what they’ll find in each section of an article, and how what they’ll find aligns with specific goals in reading that information. As we move this e-learning resource into more of a full roll-out — and out of a test phase — we’ll need to continually evaluate how we’re helping students understand those concepts in the modular lessons and if we can better convey that information.

 Q:  Your tutorials landing page lists other helpful tutorials related to searching, copyright, and citing sources.  Can you talk a bit about how the “Reading Scholarly Articles” tutorial fits into your overall vision of your services and what your plans are, if any, for future tutorials?

 A: That’s an interesting question, because there are a variety of resources available to students, faculty, and staff on our tutorials page ( We have tools that guide them in exporting citations into our institution’s citation manager; we have sequenced tutorials that help students understand information literacy concepts; and we have these longer, freestanding e-learning courses like Reading Scholarly Articles — and some others that you referenced, including one on Copyright and You and one on Using and Citing Sources. As our institution’s instructional needs grow (especially for online courses), Amanda thinks these e-learning courses — which present deeper conceptual explorations for students — can help us to meet our learners’ needs in new ways, without asking faculty to give up precious class time. Reading Scholarly Articles presents our first attempt at that — providing introductory information literacy concepts that are really foundational to other research-centric behaviors and skills — and we’re hoping that it provides a building block on which librarians can construct deeper disciplinary relationships.