Sample Recipe - Doug Cook
Title - Local Research: Can I do the “Ghosts of Gettysburg” for My Paper?
Doug Cook, Distance Librarian and Professor, Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA
Freshmen Composition students are asked to do a group PowerPoint presentation and individual short papers. In preparation they are asked to do group research on a Local Landmark – for example, town history, a local park, etc. In the past, students have researched Hersheypark, Gettysburg Battlefield, Carlisle Indian School, burning of Chambersburg during the Civil War, Appalachian Trail, Pine Grove Furnace State Park, etc. Each student eventually focuses on a piece of the larger topic.
Purpose - Introduce students to the vagaries of local and historical research. Get each group started by using readily available resources. Searching the typical databases does not always work for those of us in small-town universities.
· Computer access for all students.
· An instructor’s station with projector.
Preparation – Students should have chosen topics before the session. Compile resources on each of their general topics. Topics of this type can often be found in newspapers, travel magazines, archival documents, historical books, etc. Local historical societies, public libraries, or a visitor’s center at the landmark itself may be helpful.
The Instruction Session –
1. Ask students to sit in their assigned groups.
2. To get students talking to each other, ask each group to describe the specifics of their topic to the whole class. This is a good time for you to begin highlighting specific resources which would be applicable. Keep track of topics on the board.
3. Do a mini-lecture and discussion (no more than ten minutes) highlighting the following resource types and how to find them, particularly in regard to their research topics.
· Books, media
· Travel magazines
· Web resources
· Site visits
4. Give students time to begin research and discussion in their groups. Circulate to answer questions and identify profitable resources and topics.
5. Reserve the last ten minutes for debriefing as a group
Main Instructional Technique – mini-demonstration, small-group work in computer lab
Subject – English Composition, Local History
Length of session – one to two hours
Audience/Class size – freshmen, no more than thirty
ALA Information Dietary Standards Addressed –
Standard One: “The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed”; 1.2.
Standard Two: “The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently”; 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4.
Standard Three: “The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system”; 3.1.
Cautions – Students have a hard time understanding that they need to use actual resources – books, Web sites, interviews, etc. – for this project. They occasionally have difficulty finding the resources themselves.
I enjoy facilitating this session because it uses a different approach to the obligatory freshmen writing assignment – Abortion, Handguns, etc. I am continually challenged by the unusual topics students latch on to. One young man, on a Gettysburg Battlefield group, became fixated with the Ghosts of Gettysburg. He had heard that ghosts still haunt the battlefield and the town. This is not particularly a scholarly subject but I didn’t want to dampen his enthusiasm. We started with Google and found a Web site advertising Ghost Tours. It turns out that there is a tremendous amount of Web traffic regarding this topic, including numerous photos and accounts from ghost hunters and paranormal sites. One of the tour guides has written a number of books about the ghosts. Unfortunately we didn’t have them in the University library, so we checked the local public library, where they are available. Gettysburg ghosts have also been the subject of numerous local newspaper articles. I also encouraged him to take the Ghost Tour and interview the tour guide. What seemed to one skeptical librarian to be a bizarre topic, turned out to be pretty exciting. (I still need to take the Ghost Tour myself.)
Thanks to Dr. Cathy Dibello, English Dept., Shippensburg U. for the original recipe.