First Year Seminar – Information Investigators

The “Information Investigators” first-year seminars are designed to help you work more effectively and efficiently.

  • Save time
  • Ask the right questions
  • Find the information you need
Garrot McCune ’17

Environmental toxicology major Garrot McCune can’t wait for next summer. That’s when he plans to do field research at the UC Davis Marine Laboratory at Bodega Bay. Hands-on experience in the marine lab will help prepare him for a career in research – but it’s a class he took at the UC Davis Library that’s helping him prepare for Bodega Bay.

A transfer student to UC Davis, Garrot quickly found that some of his classes required information research skills not taught in the laboratory, such as how to define a focused research question – something he’ll need to do for his project at the marine lab – and how to access relevant scientific literature, which many of his other classes require.

“In one of my ETOX classes, we have to do background research on whatever we’re about to do in the lab, like testing the amount of formaldehyde in a cigarette,” Garrot explains.

To learn how to dig into the scientific literature, Garrot turned to a new class offered by UC Davis librarians. Designed for undergraduates, the one-hour-per-week course teaches students how to take a research topic, refine and narrow down their research question to something answerable and appropriate in scope, and determine how to get the information they need quickly and efficiently.

“Before this class, I would have just been using Google. Now I know what to do,” he says. “The class really taught us the process of research and how to get the resources we need through UC Davis.”

Through the class, he learned how to use the library catalog, databases of scientific journals – and when to ask a research librarian for help.

“It’s clear and easy once you know how to do it,” he says, but many students come to college never having been taught how to do scientific research. Never mind high school, “I didn’t know of any classes like this at my community college,” he continues.

Taught in an interactive seminar format, the class also gives students the opportunity to hone their teamwork and presentation skills, which will be valuable in the workforce as well as at UC Davis. Working in small groups, they choose a research topic; evaluate whether the existing scientific literature supports, refutes or provides mixed results regarding their research question; and present their findings to the class. Each team acts as a peer review panel for the other group’s work.

And no matter what field of study a student is in, knowing how to ask the right questions, find resources, and work independently or as a team to critically analyze information will take them far.

Sign up now!
Go to the First Year Seminar Program web page
View “Seminar Schedule Winter 2020.” to see the list of seminars offered.
Search for “Academic Research.”

This quarter’s theme is: “Academic Research & Artificial Intelligence: Doing Library Research to Decode the Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence.”