Teaching Research Methods: Q&A with Professor Michelle McCauley
Director of Research & Instruction Carrie Macfarlane interviews Michelle McCauley, Professor of Psychology, about collaborating with a librarian to teach a research methods class.
Professor Michelle McCauley joined the Department of Psychology in 1995. She teaches Research Methods, Legal Psychology, Psychology of Work, and Environmental Problems and Human Behavior.
Carrie Macfarlane (CM): What courses do you teach with your librarian?
Michelle McCauley (MM): Research Methods in Psychology, and my First-Year Seminar.
CM: Who is your librarian? And, how long have you been working with me? ;)
MM: Carrie Macfarlane is the librarian for Psychology, and I’ve been working with her (you!) since 2015, when she introduced my first-year seminar to the library. After that, I began asking her to meet with students in Research Methods.
CM: Would you describe one of your research assignments?
MM: For research methods, students pick a topic in psychology of interest and then, over the term, complete a deep review of the literature on the topic and write a formal literature review describing what they have learned (this is revised at least three times). They then take this learning, and use it to design a study to advance current understanding of the phenomenon. They then use the library databases to help research and locate specific psychological assessment tools they would use in their proposed study. Finally, they write a formal research proposal, which includes not only the review of the literature but also a method and anticipated result sections, using APA formatting.
CM: What are some of the challenges your students encounter with this assignment, and how does your librarian help?
MM: Carrie helps them narrow their topics, find search terms, identify journals that are respectable, and figure out best practices for saving and organizing pdfs.
CM: Can you provide some specifics regarding how you collaborate with your librarian? For example, what do you do to prepare, and what does your librarian do?
MM: We have a shared class early in the term where Carrie teaches the students about the tools they can use in researching their topic (usually in the first or second week of classes). Additionally, I have a library assignment to help them practice what they learn in this session. This assignment also advances their semester project so it is not “make work.”
CM: What advice do you want to share with faculty who are interested in collaborating with a librarian in their teaching?
MM: Invite the librarian to class and then have an assignment that is relevant for the course that ties what they learn from the librarian to the course content. Finally, remind students that librarians are a fabulous resource who are happy to meet with them over the semester!
Students love to do authentic research, and librarians love to help. When you collaborate with a librarian, your students learn the latest tools and techniques, and they’re supported by a colleague who can be trusted to answer questions quickly and compassionately. In the end, when your students turn in their work, you’ll find that you’re much happier with the results.
Are you starting to imagine how you might collaborate with a librarian in your own classes? Please get in touch!
- Learn why and how librarians teach research workshops: go/infolit/
- Contact your librarian! We’re listed by department here: go/liaisons/
Carrie M. Macfarlane is the Director of Research & Instruction at the Davis Family Library