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Peer Research Consultants

Training and information for PRCs

Refining Research & Starting Databases

"Mining for Resources" is designed to be a little frustrating, and a little difficult.

Go through the information that follows in this box to assist you with the "Mining" project below it.



Tips and Tricks

Best Bets

Search Tips

  • Don't use periods (such as U.S.) - spell out the word instead
  • Take out words such as: in, an, a, the, from...
  • If you notice a word showing up as a subject term, change the search box option to "subject"
  • Using filters in the databases to narrow by publication date, language, topic, etc
    • Remember for publication date, unless specified patrons should be looking for articles within an 8-10 year span
  • DON'T EVER CHECK THE FULL TEXT BOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 25-60 is a good results amount. 
    • It all depends on context for the number of results. 
  • Better to look at subject words than keywords unless brainstorming
  • When looking up a historical figure like Jean Piaget, use the last name only, not the first name
  • Use Ctrl F to find how many times your key words appear to find out if the article pertains mainly to your topic


Sharing the search link at the top of the browser doesn't give students access to the search you have been doing. Instead, there are links in the databases that can be shared with students (or this team!) that are called Permalinks. You will be expected to use them to link to search results. There are two ways to do this:

  • Sharing a specific article
    • When looking at the article, there is a button that says "permalink." Click on it and it provides the permalink for that article which you can copy and paste to share.
  • Sharing a full list of search results
    • When looking at the results list, there is a button that says "permalink." Click on it and it provides the permalink for that article which you can copy and paste to share.
  • More information about Permalinks on the How To Guide
  • Get familiar with the Proxy Generator (also found on Quicklinks) and when you need to use it
  • Go through the attached Powerpoint Presentation

Evaluating Materials

There are many different types of resources out there. Many of us started with Google, Wikipedia, etc., but how do we know if it's a good resource? Your job is to help UND's students move away from most internet searches and learn to use our databases, and to help them discover if what they need is relevant and appropriate to their assignments. Do you know the different types of journals? Do you know what to look for on websites? How do you determine if what you see if a fact or an opinion?

Please review the next three tabs in this box (and come back here often!) to be sure you know what type of material you will be finding and using!

Journals require you to consider numerous factors. These include Purpose, Type of Journal, Organization and Content, Bias, Date, Bibliography, Usefulness, Authority Coverage, Audience, and Illustrations.


Purpose: Why was it written? To:

  • Persuade the reader to do something?
    • Such as voting a certain way, purchase something, or attend an event
  • Inform the reader?
    • Results of research, how an event went
  • Prove something?
    • A method does / does not work, a behavior is good / bad

Type of Journal:

  • Scholarly
    • For college-level papers, information should be obtained mostly from this category
    • Contains articles describing high quality research that has been reviewed by experts in the field prior to publication
    • Page enumeration is consecutive throughout volumes
    • Few or no advertisements
    • Black and white pages
    • Examples: Journal of Access Services and Journal of Applied Psychology
  • Trade
    • Useful for topics in business or where economic data is needed
    • Good for learning what the current "hot topics" are in an area
    • Page enumeration starts over with page 1 in each issue
    • Advertisements are related only to the field / focus of the journal
    • Glossy pages
    • Examples: APA Monitor and Public Management
  • Popular
    • Use sparingly or not at all
    • Page enumeration starts over with page 1 in each issue
    • Heavy advertisements
    • Pictures and illustrations with color
    • Examples: Time and Newsweek

Try this game to review

Organization and Content

  • Is the material organized and focused?
  • Is the argument or presentation understandable?
  • Is this original research, a review of previous research, or an informative piece?

Bias (of the publisher): Is the journal:

  • Left / Liberal?
  • Right / Conservative?
  • Center?
  • An alternative press?
  • Published by a political action (PAC) group?

Date: Some topics, such as health sciences, require current information. Others, such as geology, value both older and current material. Consider if the source is:

  • Up-to-date
  • Out-of-date
  • Timeless


  • Scholarly works always contain the resources consulted
  • The list should be in sufficient quantity and be appropriate for the content

Be sure to note:

  • Does a bibliography exists?
  • How short is the bibliography?
  • Is it selective or comprehensive?
  • Are the references primary sources (such as journal articles) or only secondary sources (such as encyclopedias)?
  • Date / timeliness?
  • Is the citation style clear and consistent?


  • Is the article relevant to the research topic? It doesn't matter how good it is if it doesn't address the researcher's needs!
  • If it is useful, does it
    • Support an argument?
    • Refute an argument?
    • Give examples? (such as survey results, case studies, or primary research findings)
    • Provide "wrong" information that can be challenged or disagreed with productively?


  • Is the author an expert in their field?
  • Where is the author employed?
  • What else has has he/she/zie written?
  • Has the author won any awards or honors?


Does the article cover the topic comprehensively, partially, or is it an overview?

Audience: This ties in with the type of journal. Is the article for:

  • General readers (such as popular magazines)
  • Students - high school, college, graduate
  • Specialists (trade magazines) or professionals
  • researchers (scholarly journals) or scholars


  • Are charts, graphs, maps, photographs, etc. used to illustrate concepts?
  • Are the illustrations relevant?
  • Are they clear and professional-looking?
  • Be aware of .org vs. .com
  • Look at authors and publishers to see if they are a credible source. 
  • Look at the date to see if the website's information is relevant or not. 
  • The design of the site. Sometimes a well-designed site can be an indication for a reliable source. 
  • Look at the writing style. If there are a lot of grammar and spelling errors, it could be that the site is not credible.  
  • Look to see if the article contains a reference list. Scholarly articles do contain a reference list.

University of Wisconsin Green Bay. How Can I Tell If a Website Is Credible?, 3 June 2019,

  • Facts are often used to inform or make an argument. 
    • Ex: "The United States was established in 1776." 
  • Opinions are typically used to persuade. Although, readers will notice and demand evidence to back up their claim. 
    • Ex: "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is the GREATEST movie of all time!!"
    • Opinions can oftentimes be biased and typically do not include counter-arguments. 

University Libraries. “Fact or Opinion.” Choosing Using Sources A Guide to Academic Research, The Ohio State University,

Mining for In-Depth Resources

Assignment 1: Mining

Create a new document that you will post in Teams

  • To practice locating various scholarly, in-depth e-resources, use the topic of transformational leadership. This is a good way to start exploring what databases the library has and to become more familiar with the library website.
  • Include your search path on how you get to your choice (it doesn't have to be great - just the steps you took so we could repeat it).
  • Provide a brief summary of what it was like - your frustrations, your a-ha moments, etc.
  • Tell Karlene when you are done so she can set a time with the team to go over it with you.

Address the following areas:

  1. Definition
    1. Locate the definition of the term "transformational leadership" in an appropriate library reference tool. Provide a screenshot and indicate what database and / or source you used.
  2. Scholarly Research Article
    1. Locate a scholarly research article on the topic of "transformational leadership." Provide an APA or MLA citation and indicate what database you used.
  3. Biographical Information
    1. Locate biographical information on one of the originators (either Bass or Avolio) of transformational leadership of your choice.
    2. Provide a screenshot of the source.
    3. In one or two sentences, compare the quality of the information you found in the two sources.
  4. E-Book
    1. See if you can locate an e-book related to the topic of transformational leadership.
    2. Open the book and try using the search box to do a keyword search to see if either Bass or Avolio are mentioned in the body of the book. Choose a book that mentions one of these pioneers.
    3. Provide a screenshot of some text you want to quote. Provide your direct quote from the book with the parenthetical text citation using APA or MLA formating for the parenthetical text citation. For example, (Cassell & Hiremath, 2013, p. 222).
  5. Instrument (Questionnaire, Survey, Inventory, etc.)
    1. This one is difficult! Do not spend more than half an hour looking for information. Start by trying to locate an instrument (for example, a questionnaire, survey, or inventory) that could be used for research on the topic of transformational leadership.

    2. If found:

      1. Provide a screenshot of the information about your selected instrument.

      2. Is the instrument published or unpublished? What led you to this conclusion?

    3. If not found:

      1. Where did you get caught up?

      2. How did you try to resolve it?

      3. What point would you want to pass it to a librarian or bring in assistance?

  6. Dissertation
    1. Locate a dissertation or thesis on the topic of transformational leadership.
    2. What path did you take to find it? List each click you took from the website.
    3. Provide a screenshot
    4. Provide the citation using APA or MLA formatting
    5. Indicate how someone would be able to locate the full-text of the dissertation.


Tracking Progress

Assignment 2: Search Plan Using a Table

To help with your comfort level as you start learning how to research, for this assignment you will pick a topic of interest to you. Maybe it's something you already need to write a paper on for a class! If you are unsure about your choice, just ask Karlene! You ARE expected to

  • Use the Search Plan document template posted above
  • Use the library resources as opposed to going to Google
  • Fill in the Search Plan document - this allows us to copy your path as we review the work!
  • Include the permalink to the item you deem to be the best choice out of those found
  • You MAY include a link to the results list


Instructions / Explanation:

  1. Search Plan
    1. As noted on the document, think like a reporter and include the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY
    2. The document also asks for a CONTINGENCY PLAN – where do you plan to go if the search doesn't work? (this is considered BEFORE starting the assignment.
  2. Search Strategy
    1. In the Research Path, list all the steps taken to reach your destination.
    2. These steps may need to be repeated multiple times. In between each, you may make notes on what was wrong or where it went off track for you. The example above went on to use Resource: Google and Google Scholar for additional ideas before returning to Resource: Westlaw. (you CAN look in Google - just come back to the library resources!)
  3. Search Results - screen shot and hyperlink
  4. Analysis – provide a few paragraphs that answer.

Include the name of your search topic at the top of the 2nd page.

You may add columns to the document to account for:

  • Date of Search
  • Filters used (such as publication date, peer-reviewed, etc)
  • Permalink to research results instead of a screenshot
  • Articles of Note

When complete, upload the worksheet to Teams and let Karlene know. Start working on Assignment #3


Assignment 3: Charged Language

"Charged Language" is defined as using controversial words or phrases that imply judgments and feelings about the subject. It is often filled with logical fallacies and innuendos and can elicit an emotional response from the listener or reader. At its worst, it could include veiled accusations or threats. 

Some examples could include using "fanatic" instead of "enthusiastic" or describing something as a "plague" rather than it being a "difficult situation."

You might experience different cases where folks ask you questions, and the language may create a response in yourself or be biased. It's important to recognize charged language so you can help meet the patron's needs without swaying them towards one direction or another. Sometimes you may get difficult questions like this, and just know it's ok if you can't answer it or if you feel there might be a bias present in yourself. Please connect with your librarian to help you. 

Please read the following example that one of our reference librarians experienced.  

Chat session: 

Patron: I need help researching welfare abuse in small communities. When I search for welfare abuse in small communities in Academic Search Ultimate, it always brings up child abuse cases and barely anything on the topic I'm looking for. 

Librarian: Okay, it sounds like the abuse word was getting picked up separately. Maybe "welfare abuse" with quotes around it would help? Hmm, the initial search I tried with the quotes had no results 

Patron: That does help, but when I add small communities then no results are found 

This is a review of how one librarian handled the question:

  • I recall from the English 130 assignment that you are looking for some peer-reviewed journal articles. I'm going to try some searches in Academic Search Ultimate and see if I can figure out some keywords that work. 
  • I see welfare reform is another search term the database suggests...  
  • I'm thinking you won't find an article exactly on your topic from what we saw from trying to search ASU (zero results for that one search), but we could find some articles on related topics that you could piece together in your essay. 
  • Substitute names of specific programs for the phrase Welfare Reform or Welfare Abuse : e.g. (temporary assistance to needy families OR SNAP) AND rural AND abuse 
  • Basically, since "welfare abuse" didn't work for that initial search, now that we learned a little more about the topic (what are examples of welfare abuse), we can try some different words to see if we get more results. 
  • Also – try to give guidance/suggestions to “operationalize” the issue because eventually in the course they come up with a local proposal, e.g. 
  • For example, maybe you are making the point that welfare shouldn't support drug abusers and use that article and then you add something about what a local community could do - use that welfare money to support a drug treatment program instead. And if you look at a certain community, you could add details like Organization B could organize the drug treatment program. 

Now that you've seen tips, please answer:

  • How would you break this down? What search terms might you try?
  • Do you see examples of “charged language” in this question? 


By this time you should have met with the Team about Assignment 1and 2. If this is done in time, we can cover it at the same meeting. If not, let Karlene know to schedule a meeting, and move on to Assignment #4.

Assignment 4: Revised Search Plan Using a Table

Now that you've met with the librarian about Assignment 1 and 2, and learned several tips and treasures, please repeat the steps of Assignment 2, utilizing your new tools. You can use the same topic or choose a new topic.

This assignment is to reflect on what you learned in this process. Please include (or be ready to discuss):

  1. All the databases you've tried in the exercise and the revisions
  2. How did those databases influence the results / pros and cons of each
  3. A discussion about relevance and recall of the result lists (how relevant were the results to the search terms?)
  4. Recognition of different collections of journals / material types in the different databases
  5. Differences of functionality in differing databases
  6. Kristen uses a toolbox analogy - which database "tool" do you choose when researching your topic and why?

Please wait before moving on! You may be asked to revise and expand your searches!

As a reminder: as noted on the Home tab, when assisting patrons, you still need to have a librarian taking the lead, with you listening. You know a little, but there's a ways to go yet! After a patron interaction, discuss your thoughts with your librarian buddy. Keep working on those critical thinking skills as you move ahead with the training.

Assignment 5: English 130 Sample Questions

  • When you get to assist with English 130, you will need to know how to work with questions like these.
  • Use the search plan template


Often times when we start, the topic is extremely broad.

Choose two of the following English 130 Topics for this assignment:

  • Work & Leisure
  • Sustainability & Community
  • Technology & Community
  • College Education
  • Democracy and public spaces

This assignment is to demonstrate your ability to navigate the Research Guides. While it may seem logical to start with the Eng 130 guide, that may not be where the topic best fits. This helps you start thinking "outside the box" and to consider what subject areas the topics may better fit. Use the Search Plan model for documenting your path.

For each question, list:

  1. Which Research Guides did you look at?
  2. Which links did you follow on the Guides?
  3. Why did you make each decision you did?

Let Karlene know when you are done so she can set a meeting with the team. Go on to Assignment #6

Assignment 6 - Selling the Program

You now understand enough of the PRC program that you're ready to start representing us for outreach opportunities! This allows you to:

  1. Help librarians create content for flyers (note that you do NOT create the flyer - that is for the Marketeers!)
  2. Table with librarian at activities like National Library Week

To do this, you need to be able to tell them who you are and what your job is. There are three things you need to create for this assignment:

  1. 30 Second Elevator Pitch
    1. “Hi, my name is <X> and I’m a Peer Research Consultant at the Chester Fritz Library. I work with undergraduates using the library databases and online resources. So it’s taking what you learned from when the librarians came to Eng 130 or any other class and going more in-depth with the databases and resources, in a personalized one on one 30 minute session. I understand the struggle and frustration of finding resources for your papers since I have taken some of the same classes and have been in the same boat before. There is a lot of information that I learned, that I wish I knew as an undergraduate. My overall goal is to make you a better researcher.”
  2. 1 minute Elevator Pitch
    1. “Hello my name is <X> and I will be helping out Kristen. My job at the Chester Fritz Library is a Peer Research Consultant. I work with students with learning how to help their searches by using different tricks or tips like keywords or filtering out to what you specifically need. Sometimes I help you figure out what information you are really looking for. All of the Peer Research Consultants have been or are undergraduates at UND. I have all sat in and seen the Eng 130 and for a ceramics course the lecture on how to use the databases and library resources. I know it is a lot of information to take in and can sometimes be confusing or you miss a step or later cannot remember what Kristen did to find a good search. I know from personal experience that when I would look for articles or journals, I almost always got overwhelmed by the number of results I got and frustrated that a lot of them had nothing to do with my topic. There has definitely been a lot of information that I learned that I wish I knew back then. All of our sessions are 30 minutes and are one on one. I let you do all the typing and clicking so that way you can understand what is being taught better rather than if I simply did it for you. You can set up an appointment online by going onto Starfish, or if you go to the library and go to the Circulation Info desk, they can help you to see if we are available for a session.”
  3. Profile - This short "bio" will be included on the library website and on Starfish, which you will be gaining access to soon.
    1. Please write a short profile of yourself to include on the library website. See this example from University of Minnesota for ideas.

Please submit to Karlene after creating. Go on to Assignment #7 under Reference Interviews.



You've reached a milestone!

Knowing how to talk about the program means you're ready to go with our librarians for outreach and tabling events! You'll be using that 30 second elevator pitch to promote what we do and why the campus needs to use it!