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1994 Conference on College Composition and Communication, National Council of Teachers of English

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More and more of the college and university library's resources are becoming computerized. As first year students enter the library, they are often confronted with an overwhelming array of computer terminals and workstations. While some students are avid computer users, others are fearful or intimidated. Regardless of one's proclivity towards electronic resources and services, the first year student must learn how to evaluate the relevancy of each of the various systems to their own research needs and make a selection that is best suited to their particular tasks.

This presentation will review general considerations and guidelines for including electronic library resources into the research component of first year composition classes. Introducing computerized databases into the research process presents numerous challenges to the composition instructor. Parting from the traditional research strategies often presented in the published research guides may lead the instructor into uncharted territories. Yet, the availability of electronic sources has become so prolific that ignoring them or minimizing their use would be an extreme disservice to the students. CD-ROM technology and locally mounted databases have brought sophisticated searching capabilities into the hands of the entire university community, including first year undergraduates.

A strong research component in the first year writing course can provide a firm foundation on which advanced thinking and writing skills can develop. While the vast array of electronic resources may present exciting or intriguing possibilities, instructors must be careful not to overwhelm the students with too much or to present online systems as the "best" answer for every research need. Putting these electronic resources into an appropriate context for the beginning researcher is paramount to teaching their effective utilization. A thorough presentation of the research process, with its conceptual underpinnings and strategies, provides the broad framework within which these resources may be most effectively utilized. In this presentation I will discuss selecting databases and using electronic resources in the introductory level composition course. A close working relationship with the instruction librarian will help to ensure adequate coverage of electronic services for the novice researcher and maintain an appropriate balance with print sources as well.

While taking advantage of the improved access to information through electronic means, educators must integrate critical thinking and evaluative skills throughout the students' research and writing processes. The many options available in our information-rich society force us to make choices, and we must help the first year students realize that "computer," though it may provide "opportunity," does not always mean "best."


Published version. Introducing Electronic Information Services to First-Year Composition Students: Pedagogical and Practical Concerns. National Council of Teachers of English. Nashville, TN. March 1994. Oral presentation.