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Peer Research Consultants

Training and information for PRCs

How to Begin

Think back to your pre-training survey. Under "Staffing the Desk," we asked about you meeting with a librarian for your own research. Go back to that document and review your answers. This will provide you a basis as you move into working on interview questions and styles.

We have a choice to "give 'em the fish" or teach them to fish. It's our job to find the line between what they need and what they can do for themselves. Check in with the patron as you go and make sure you are still addressing the question they want answered. Whenever possible, have them do the majority of the work with only guidance from you. This is like showing them how to use our Reserve system - show them once, show them twice if you like, but then encourage them to try searching on their own with the tools you have introduced to them!

Be aware that the question they are asking may not, indeed, be the question they mean.

For example, asking for "something about tree frogs" may mean

  1. "I don't know. Frogs are just cool."
  2. "I'm actually looking to compare species of tree frogs for my biology class."
  3. "I'm looking to find out how many types of poisonous frogs live in the South American jungles."
  4. "I really don't care about frogs - I actually need to find out about the ecology of tree dwelling animals in the Australian Outback."

In each example, they are looking for different types of answers and resources! It's up to you to help them get to the heart of their true question!

Assignment 7 - Writing Reflection

After reading each of the following articles and watching the short Youtube video, please write a (minimum) two paragraph reflection on what you read. Please send responses to Karlene.


  1. What you agreed with
  2. What you may have disagreed with
  3. Something you learned
    1. What are some things to consider when assessing the patron's information needs?
    2. There is often a disconnect between what the student is asking for and what their information need really is. What are some open-ended questions you could use to help learn more about what they are looking for?
  4. Was there something you would like to learn more about?
  5. Anything you'd like to share or that really stood out for you.

Assignment 8 - Reference Interview #1


Instructions: Go back to the top of this page and go to the "Doing an interview" tab. There are two documents showing which RUSA guidelines were being used by the librarian each time they interacted with the patron. Keep those in mind as you fill in the following chart. Remember that ethics, ALA Library Bill of Rights, and RUSA guidelines are located under "Ethics and Guidelines" on the home tab!

For your topic: Choose either the one you used for your Search Plan assignment or from the English 130 sample question. Create a mock interview based on the RUSA guidelines.

Helpful Hints:

  • 100 or 200 level assignments, start in Academic Search Premier
  • 300 or 400 level assignments, start in more advanced databases like PsychInfo or ERIC
  • Use Suggest Subject Terms box
  • Use Advanced Search
  • Note the recommended search terms that appear as you start to fill in the boxes
  • Use the Thesaurus


We are not looking for the perfect result to be found in this case - We are looking specifically to see:

  • That you understand the RUSA ethics and how to use them during the interview
    • This is both verbal and non-verbal - include what you are doing as well as the questions.
    • Neutrality without bringing personal bias in
  • That you use the correct verbiage needed for a successful interview
  • That you ask questions, but do not automatically offer them keywords - do you provide wait time for them to respond
  • That you don't assume a direction for their topic - are you asking:
    • What class is this for?
    • What kind of resources do you need?
  • A sense of customer service and approachability

Assignment 9 - Getting set up

While waiting to meet with Karlene about Assignment 8, it's time to ensure you have access to several accounts.

  • LibAnswers
    • This will give you access to LibChat and LibGuides
    • See Brittany Fischer for access and set up training for LibChat and LibGuides
      • You will get your training on LibChat, and we want you to observe librarians, but you will wait to do these until you have completed your librarian specific questions.
    • See Karlene to get your own LibGuide "sandbox" to play and practice in
      • The assignments so far have shown you how use them for searching and research assistance. All training accounts will be labeled as <(your name)’s Sandbox>. This is your personal guide during your time as a PRC and will stay until you leave the program.
      • You may use it to practice creating and deleting pages, learning how to work with tabs and boxes, and so much more. Maybe you want to have a page within it just for your own notes about what you are learning, as well as tips and tricks you discover!
      • This will not be a public page for others to see, but when you do have something basic set up, please email the team with the link and for a time to review and ask questions. They may have more tips to help you out before you start creating live guides for UND students!
      • This is not for you to create professional content. That needs to be on the guide the librarian is asking for it on. They will need to add you as an editor to the specific guide. There is a Best Practices Research Guide Template Guide that you can use.
  • Reference Email Account
    • You will want to send information to patrons after visiting, and will not do that from your personal accounts
    • See Kristen Borysewicz to arrange this and set up training with her.

For each of these things, see the "Further Instructions" tab for more information about them.

Assignment 10 - Reference Interview #2

After meeting with the team, and reviewing Assignment 8, choose a topic that might come from an upper class student (perhaps Psych 300). Do a more complete interview and fill in the Organizing Your Topic Sheet. Submit that with the interview and search plan.

Assignment 11 - Reference Interview #3, Polished

Now that you've visited with the team about how to properly do ethics, verbiage, and narrowing the topic, give us a final, complete interview that incorporates everything above.

Assignment 12 - Reference Interview Role Play

You're ready to try it! Working with a Lead PRC, go to the One Button Studio and have your Lead ask you a question. Record the interview and then submit to Karlene. This will be the first time an evaluation checklist will be used. That sheet is located at the bottom of this page.


Once your video is reviewed, the team will let you know you have successfully completed the interview section of your training. This means, if you go back to the Home tab and review the need for your librarian buddy, you still need them present... HOWEVER, you now take the lead on the interview! Find out what class they're in, what they need, narrow the topic, etc., then let the librarian do the search with the patron. Slide over, keep listening!

Diversity (Assignment 13)

Think about the following information, then write a few sentences about how you have been impacted by a form of diversity and how you will use that knowledge to better serve our patrons (it can be general or specific to an area).

Why Diversity is important:

  • We work one on one with individuals from a variety of different backgrounds and want to provide a safe and respectful environment for them
  • Students will have questions on various topics regarding diversity and we want to provide effective assistance with their topic 
  • You may not know whether a topic is for a class or whether it is for the individuals personal purposes
  • It is in compliance with the American Library Association Bill of Rights to put aside one's beliefs and views to help others
  • As a society we have evolved and what may have been seen as normal or okay previously may be considered offensive or disrespectful currently
  • How would you feel if you were being discriminated against for your age, sex, race/ethnicity, disability, etc. 

Basic Information:

  • Diversity comes in many forms. This can be someone visibly different from us through race, disability, or appearance. However, it can also be an invisible thing. There are many hidden illnesses and disabilities, the part of the country or the world the person comes from, and the type of upbringing they received.
  • Please refer back to the Student Instructions Guide at and review the Diversity tab on the left side.
  • Also, please review the UND Diversity & Inclusion webpage for a variety of resources:

Things to say (or not)

  • To allow individuals to pick a spot to sit where they feel comfortable, simply say, "Have a seat wherever you like"
    • This allows patrons to choose where to sit and in what way makes them feel comfortable.
    • While some may have no preference to sit, many may have a preference as it correlates to any previous trauma experienced, light sensitivity, or simply because they just want to. 
  • When referring to an individual by their gender, refrain from associating their appearance with their gender
    • For example, using words such as: he, him, his, she, her, hers
    • Instead use words such as: they, them, their, theirs
    • They are gender neutral terms and does not force a patron to pick a gender
  • Refrain from using the term "you guys" when addressing groups of individuals.
    • Instead use words such as: you all or you
    • We help in ENGL 130 classes and not everyone in the class identifies as a male
      • It addresses non-binary, non-cisgender, transgender individuals, and females
  • When talking about relationships with patrons remember:
    • You do not know the patrons sexual orientation, use words such as: significant-other or partner
  • There are important concepts to consider when referring to individuals with a disability, whether it is physical, mental, or an illness
    • Do not refer to individuals whether it is a topic or a person by their disability first!
      • For example, do not say the depressed person or the hearing impaired person.
      • By stating an individuals disability first has a negative connotation to it being that the person can only be identified by their disability.
    • Instead refer to disabilities by using person first language
      • ‚ÄčFor example, the person by the computers or the person with the blue backpack
      • This same language is used when discussing topics
        • For example, children and adolescent with Autism Spectrum Disorder or people with hearing disabilities
    • Note: There may be instances where individuals with a disability may prefer being referred to by their disability first. In those cases respect their wishes. 
    • Never attempt to aide an individual with a disability unless it is requested 
      • For example helping individuals with a wheel chair by pushing it or helping them move to a different seat or help guiding an individual who has a visual impairment
      • While it shows that you do have their best interest at heart, they may perceive it as them being unable to take care of themselves
  • With individuals of different racial or ethnic backgrounds be respectful towards them.
    • Please remember that for those where English is not their first language have patience with them if you are unable to understand them
      • They are most likely as frustrated as you are that you cannot understand them!
    • It is important to understand that African-American is NOT the same as Black individuals
      • African-American has indication that the individual has close heritage and culture from Africa
      • Whereas Black individuals are those whose culture come from ancestors who have been brought to the United States through Slavery
    • Islam is a religion NOT a race or ethnicity
      • The term 'Muslim' refers to a person of the Islamic faith.
      • When researching topics pertaining to individuals from Middle-Eastern or Arabic backgrounds, the terms Muslim or Islamic do not reflect their race or ethnicity. 
        • In actuality many Middle-Eastern, Arabic, or African countries have a diverse make up when it comes to religion. So do not associate stereotypic views. 
        • 'Middle-Eastern' or 'Arabic' refers to ethnicity, while an individual of Middle-Eastern or Arabic heritage has, depending on the country they are from, their race as White or Asian.
    • Do not assume an individuals race or ethnicity
      • This goes along with assuming an individuals culture by the use of stereotypes. 
        • For example, an individual who may look Native-American, do not assume that they were raised on a reservation
    • When using terms such as Hispanic and Latinx
      • Latinx is used to describe individuals who consider themselves Latino or Latina.
      • Not every individual who comes from Spanish culture or heritage describes themselves as Latinx, it typically is used for individuals whose family comes from Latin America
      • Hispanic is used as a term to describe those who come from a culture who speaks Spanish
      • Also being Hispanic or Latinx is considered an ethnicity. Their race is considered to be White.
      • Chicano or Chicana is a term used to describe an individual of Mexican descent.
  • There is a difference between collectivist and individualistic culture. 
    • This is applied to when patron may appear to be "touchy" while it is important to respect their culture, your comfort and safety is more important. Can politely ask them to stop or simply get Karlene to help with the situation.
    • Collectivist culture focuses on the whole group rather than the individual. Many other cultures follow these dynamic for example Hispanic/ Latinx culture is collectivist. 
    • Individualistic culture is where the priority is on the individual rather than the whole group, they are independent and self-reliant. The United States is built on this concept.
  • If talking about Socio-Economic status, be aware of the language you use. (Remember "Charged Language"?)
    • Do not say poor people, less fortunate, underprivileged, rich people, privileged.
    • Instead use words such as low-income or high-income individuals.


  • A Graduate Student comes in on the weekend and asks for help?
    • "PRCs are trained to assist undergraduates, and our librarians are off duty right now. What I can do, though, is get you started with a few subject terms. Here's a few of the best Research Guides to look in. I'd also like to show you our Ask A Librarian chat service. This is 24/7, even when we are closed. Before you go, hand over librarian card I know <Joe> would love to visit with your about your research. Please reach out to him; he'll respond as soon as he's back in the office."
  • An Undergraduate is working on a thesis project?
    • During a weekday.
      • "Due to the nature of the research, I'm going to refer you to your subject librarian. Hang on while I call them. make the call While we wait, I can show you a few Research Guides that might help you."
    • Weekend
      • See Graduate Student script above.
  • A faculty member or graduate student is being pushy, demanding, or does not want to go on to a subject librarian?
    • Just like our basic customer service training, let the person vent first.
      • Unless they are being abusive. If you at ANY point feel uncomfortable or unsafe
        • If in person, chat your buddy librarian or another librarian, asking them to come join you at the desk. This can be as simple as "Safety. Please come to Ask Us desk." We won't question it.
        • If in libchat, you may state that you are passing it to a librarian (and do so immediately) OR you may end the session. If you end it, let your buddy librarian know what happened.
    • Say "I understand. Here's what I can do for you. I'm trained to assist undergraduates, but I know your subject librarian can assist you better than I could, so I'm going to see if they are available." (and do so).
    • If they are still unhappy
      • Let them know which libguide or database may be a starting point.
      • "I understand. Here's what I can do for you. This X may get you started. I'll also send a message to <subject librarian> to follow up with you. I appreciate your patience."
  • They are having trouble accessing our databases.
    • Verify if they are from the medical school or law school (OT, PT, nursing, social work...)
    • Have them log into their home libraries
    • "I'm not associated with X library, but I can help you with some search terms to get you started. Before we do that, I'll also give you the contact information for your subject librarian" (show them how to find it)


Now that you've "got a handle" on how this works, we're going to have you look at a few other areas.

Using what you learned with the Business Question assignment from earlier, along with the reference interview practice you did above, look at the questions under each of the tabs in this area. Some of them have transcripts or suggested answers, but in all cases, you'll go through each question as you have above.

  • Only work on one tab at a time.
    • Please include the questions in your write ups, along with the Search Plan Table (back in Training Projects; Tracking Progress) as you work through it. It allows us to see your work and recreate it as we review the process
    • You may be asked to focus on these in different orders, based on the availability of each librarian.
    • In each question, ask yourself "What is my follow up question?" to help direct the search path. Put this on your search plan. (Especially if the initial question seems too broad or open ended)
    • Your knowledge base is still growing - remember that Google and Wikipedia are last resorts!
      • We want you showing patrons our libguides, our databases, how to search for books
      • Google Scholar is okay
      • You can ask the patron (or in this case the subject librarian or Karlene), then the subject librarian, and THEN go to Google
    • Make sure to complete the "analysis" at the bottom of the search plan. This is a review of your thought process going through the question and research - what went well, how you chose search terms and revisions, where you got stuck, if you decided to get the subject librarian to explain something, etc.
      • Some questions may be beyond you. Add a note on how long you worked on the research and if you feel there is a point you should refer it to a librarian.
  • Contact your supervisor when you complete one. She will schedule a meeting with the team and the subject librarian to review everything when you complete a section.
    • This may take a few days, as the subject librarian will need time to review your work.
  • It's important to remember as you meet with each librarian that everyone has their own way of doing these tasks! Keep track of the things you think will work for you. Add those tools to your "Sandbox!"

Include at least one follow-up question to each question that you might ask to better help you find what they need. Use that to help direct how you answer.


  1. I need to know how artists dealt with the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.  Who were some of the major artists of that time and how was their work received?


  1. I want to know how the Vietnam War changed the climate of Rock and Roll. 


  1. What is a definition of religion?


  1. I need to describe a Spanish speaking country and create a poster highlighting different aspects of the culture
  2. I am taking French and want to practice, where can I find books in French? 


  1. I need to find this specific play that my professor recommended and I searched on your website and couldn’t find it.  Does that mean you don’t have it? 

Include at least one follow-up question to each question that you might ask to better help you find what they need. Use that to help direct how you answer.


  1. How to find information on education in North Dakota.
  2. How to find peer-reviewed articles on early childhood special education.


  • How to find systematic reviews on the topic of aerobic fitness and elementary school students.


  • How to find articles on school counseling and mindfulness.

Communication Sciences & Disorders

  • How to find articles on speech sound disorders.

Children's / Dewey Collection

  • How to find a culturally rich picture book.
Include at least one follow-up question to each question that you might ask to better help you find what they need. Use that to help direct how you answer.


  • I need to find a physical book on climate change. 
  • I am doing a demonstrative speech on how to crochet. Can you help me find resources on this?
Criminal Justice 
  • How do I find peer-reviewed articles on policing in the US? 
  • Can you help me find an empirical article on mindfulness and meditation? 
  • I need to find information on a famous psychologist. Where can I find information on B. F. Skinner?


  • I need a dataset in ICPSR for my Sociology class. Can you help me find a dataset for North Dakota, specifically Grand Forks? 
Women & Gender Studies 
  • I'm doing research on the Women's Suffrage movement. How do I find more information about this? I'm particularly interested in learning more about Sojourner Truth and her role in the Women's Suffrage movement. 

You are ready to practice actual questions using the chat. See one of the team, usually Danielle, to get the questions asked in practice chats. There are a few things to consider for each below. Please provide a short write up on how it went, what you learned, etc.


  • How would you determine affiliation?
    • Are they distance students?
  • How would you help them get access to the article if they are distance students?


  • How would you determine what sources they need?
  • What have they already tried?
  • What would you do if their topic is too broad or narrow?
  • Where would you recommend they start?
  • How would you share information that you’ve been working on?
  • What follow up would you do?


  • How would you help with this? Where do you find resources / help?


  • How would you determine affiliation and major?
  • What error message were they receiving?
  • Where were they searching?

Include at least one follow-up question to each question that you might ask to better help you find what they need. Use that to help direct how you answer.


  1. Where can I find information on current stock prices and look at price changes over time?
  2. You have been asked by a student if you can show them how to find a specific article in the Wall Street Journal. Three weeks later a student asks a similar question, "Do you have the Wall Street Journal?" - One is asking for something specific. The other is very general. Demonstrate how you assist both patrons.
  3. I am looking for a SWOT analysis for Menards. How do I find that?
  4. I'm in MGMT 475 and need to find everything I can about the financials and status of a company and its competitors.
  5. I am looking for demographic information about Cass County. - include how the patron would be able to share the information.

Political Science & Public Administration

  1. What is the state of the current debate in Congress about poverty in the United States?
  2. I need government materials related to the Supreme Court, and which cases they are currently reviewing.


You're doing great! You're at the point you can have appointments with people. You will take the lead on the entire process BUT - DON'T FORGET you still need your librarian buddy at your side!

  • Starfish
    • You will have "office hours" (times you work) that will be posted here and people can make appointments!
    • Consider the picture you have on Circulation Faces - do you want to update this now?
    • See Kristen Borysewicz to arrange this and receive some training.

See "Further Instructions" for more information about Starfish!


Also, you will now start tagging the on-call librarian to know your in / out times instead of Karlene. If after 4 pm, you will tag Karlene.

Include at least one follow-up question to each question that you might ask to better help you find what they need. Use that to help direct how you answer.


  1. ASTM Standards.  I need the ASTM E8 Test Methods for Tension Testing of Metallic Materials
  1. I am looking for ISO Standard 11609
  2. How do I find Chemical Engineering Plant Cost Index? How do I find Chemical Prices?
  3. Find mechanical engineering articles.
  4. I need to find the article "A Deep Learning Framework for Temperature Forecasting." It says it's from IEEE but I can't access it
  5. Where do I find the American Chemical Society (ACS) Style Guide?

Include at least one follow-up question to each question that you might ask to better help you find what they need. Use that to help direct how you answer.

1. Biology research paper on salt effects on Brassica rapa.

Include at least one follow-up question to each question that you might ask to better help you find what they need. Use that to help direct how you answer.

American Indian Studies

  1. Do you have information on the history of the Fighting Sioux mascot? 


  1. I need an ethnography

Since this is your final set of questions, you may skip using the search plan template, but be sure to include things such as that follow-up question, the "newspaper questions" of who/ what/ etc., your reasoning for keywords chosen, and some method of a search path, in case we want to follow your path. Use this information to help direct how you answer. Include an analysis - we want to know your thought process - , and don't forget the permalink.



  1. "I've been looking for academic articles from 10-15 years about 'uncrewed aerial vehicles' and not coming up with anything. I know they existed. Help?"
  2. "Where do I find FAA airport construction regulations?"
  3. “My teacher says I need to find some pilot studies and I don’t know where to go.”
  4. "I need to find out how climate change is affecting aviation, and what airlines are doing about it. I need to find a peer-reviewed article, and a news or opinion article."

Space Studies / Earth System Science & Policy

  1. "How would I find resources about potential technologies for clean drinking water?"
  2. "I'm trying to write a paper on the political background and technological development of the Apollo program. Where can I start in the library?"

Atmospheric Sciences

  1. "I want to find articles about weather conditions, such as trends in Pacific Coast hurricanes."
    1. Provide search plan and screen shot or hyperlink.
  2. "I need to find articles about climate change."
    1. Provide search plan and screen shot or hyperlink.


  1. "I need to access the journals Physical Chemistry, Chemical Physics, or Chemical Physics Letters. How do I access those?"


You're ready to have access to the the Reference Team. See Karlene or Kristen about getting you added! This will allow you to know what the librarians are up to and who is on shift (or if someone trades a shift).

The Evaluation Tab to the left has a few forms you will need to start using at this point.

  • Your first 10-15 interviews, in person or online, need to have either Karlene or your buddy librarian at your side. When the visit is completed, send your buddy librarian the link for them to evaluate how you did.
  • Always, you will provide the link / QR code for the student to evaluate how you did.

See Further Instructions, LibWizard, for more details about chats.