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Think Like a Researcher: Instruction Resources: Background

TRAIL - Teaching Research and Information Literacy

Think Like a Researcher!

UC Merced Library




Teaching Research and Information Literacy (TRAIL)


Teaching Research and Information Literacy (TRAIL) is a collaboration between the Merritt Writing Program (MWP) and the Library to integrate activities, readings, and reflections about the research process into writing curriculum.  The goal of this collaboration is to help students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to think like researchers.


TRAIL had its beginnings in a conversation Matt Moberly (MWP) initiated with Susan Mikkelsen (Librarian) in 2013 to discuss redesigning the curriculum of an introductory composition class (Writing 10) to include an emphasis on research.  Matt and Susan outlined the goals for such a project, and Matt obtained a grant from the Center for Research on Teaching Excellence (CRTE) that allowed five MWP faculty to receive small stipends to work with Susan on redesigning the curriculum. 

The primary goals of the curriculum redesign were to:

  • Better integrate information literacy skills in Writing 10
  • Teach research as a process rather than an event
  • Improve the effectiveness and quality of one-shot library instruction sessions
  • Improve the quality of student research papers
  • Prepare students for research beyond Writing 10

This process involved MWP faculty defining the writing assignments they would include. Then librarians proceeded to build lessons, develop activities, identify readings, and create tutorials that would introduce students to the research process and increase their information literacy skills.  This content focused on topics related to the research process such as avoiding researcher bias, understanding the information cycle, and developing a research question.  Writing faculty used these materials in spring 2014 as four Writing faculty (Matt Moberly, Grace Rocha, Heather Devrick, and Tanvi Patel) piloted this TRAIL curriculum in six sections.

During this pilot, Susan embedded herself in one of the sections and observed firsthand some of the challenges students encountered with finding, using, and understanding information.  Based on her observations and those of the Writing faculty, they made revisions in the curriculum in summer 2014.

In fall 2014 five Writing faculty (Matt Moberly, Grace Rocha, Heather Devrick, Rex Krueger and Katherine Lee) with nine composition classes used this revised curriculum with their students. During the semester, they met bi-weekly with Susan to review upcoming activities, tutorials, and reflection prompts that they would be using with their students.  Due to this close collaboration, students were introduced to the research process as they worked on the writing process. 

Highlighted Activities & Reflection Topics:

Activities & Tutorials Journal Reflections
Think Like a Researcher! (In-Class Activity) #1 Reflecting on the Research Process
How to Read a Scholarly Article (In-Class Activity) #2 Academic Reading
Credo Reference Tutorial (Outside Class Assignment) #3 Using Google for Academic Research
Knowledge Cycle Tutorial & Questions (Outside Class Assignment) #4 What Kind of Information Do I Need? Understanding the Knowledge/Information Cycle
Researcher Bias (In-Class Activity) #5 Research Questions: Avoiding Researcher Bias
Developing Successful Research Questions (In-Class Activity) #6 Developing Successful Research Topics/Questions/Proposals
Opposing Viewpoints Tutorial & Academic Search Complete Tutorial (Outside Class Assignment)  
In-Person Library Session #7 Reflections on the Library Visit
Chat with a Librarian on 24/7 Chat Reference Service (In-Class Activity) #8 Research Challenges
  #9 Incorporating Information into a Research Paper
  #10 Final Research Reflection (6 questions)