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Center for Teaching and Learning

Direct Student Support - BSI

Student Research Symposium

Area of Inquiry

Our project was aimed at helping to increase student information literacy capabilities and to enhance their research and writing skills, specifically, by developing a research question, conducting university quality research to answer that question, and presenting it in a well-constructed essay format. We carried out this process by incorporating a research-intensive focus in one of Sara Parker’s American Government classes and “embedding” Pedro Reynoso, the Chabot outreach librarian into the class. The end product was a culminating Student Research Symposium (SRS). In short, every student enrolled in the pilot section of American Government was required to 1) research a current topic of interest, 2) write a well-researched paper, and had the option of 3) presenting their paper to Chabot’s campus community.

We assessed the success of our goals in three ways:

1. An analysis of student final papers, including:

  • Quality of sources

  • Diversity of sources

  • Citation of sources

  • Use of appropriate sources

  • Delivery of paper (if applicable)

2. Analysis of student grades and retention.

3. Class survey and student feedback.

Discoveries to Date

The entire assignment structure of the class was structured around the research component. Students were assigned the task of writing an 8-10 page research paper on a topic of political significance, and of their choosing. They were supported in this effort in the following ways:

A. Three library orientations:

  • Orientation #1: formulate an appropriate research query and determine what information is needed to best address the question, problem or issue.
  • Orientation #2: identify potential sources of information and determine which sources of information contain the most appropriate information to address the question, problem or issue.
  • Orientation #3: communicate results and conclusions to the questions, problem or issue to others through the format most appropriate for the audience and purpose (i.e. written, oral, visual).

B. Individual student visits:
Every student was required to meet with either Sara or Pedro one time over the semester to discuss their topic, their plan of action, and their progress. During these 15-minute sessions, students received individual attention and assistance with gathering their sources and designing an outline for their papers. Out of the entire class, only 2 students did not attend the mandatory visits.

C. Scaffolding of the assignment throughout the semester:
The research paper was broken down into the following parts – each due individually and each returned with feedback prior to when the next part was due:

  1. Research Question (5pts)

  2. Due: February 9th
    Overview: The research you do in this class will be aimed at helping you answer this question.
    • Write your research topic.
    • Write your research question (in question form!)
    • Explain briefly (1-2 paragraphs) why are you interested in this topic.

  3. Annotated Bibliography (10pts)

  4. Due: March 4th
    Overview: This is a bibliography and brief description of sources that you believe will be useful to help you answer you research question.
    • Make a list of 5 sources that you think will be useful for you
    • Use correct bibliographic citations
    • Under each citation, provide a 1-2 paragraph description and summary of the source.
      • You do not need to have read all sources in their entirety, but you should have a good understanding of what each is about and how it will be helpful. Do not cite sources that you do not understand, are unrelated to your topic, or that you are guessing will be useful but have not actually investigated.
    • Of the 6 sources, at least one must be a book, and no more than two can be websites.

  5. Outline (10pts)

  6. Due: March 23rd
    Overview: An outline is an important way to think through the organization of your paper. The overview lays out the key sections of your paper and the topics and ideas that will be covered in each section.
    • Must be at least two pages long (double-spaced)
    • Use a consistent organizational structure to show the main sections of your paper and describing what you plan to cover in each section (may be in paragraph form or bullet points). It is ok to write informal notes about your plans to yourself/or the instructors. See the examples on the attached handout!
    • Provide at least one quote or paraphrased citation for each section to demonstrate your familiarity with the research and ability to integrate it into your paper.

  7. Rough Draft (20pts)

  8. Due: April 20th
    Overview: The rough draft is extraordinarily important. It ensures that your final paper will be satisfactory and gives you valuable feedback so that you can turn in your best work when the final paper is due.
    • Must be 7+ pages double-spaced.
    • There should be minimal grammatical errors. If there are more than 5 serious spelling/grammatical errors per page, you may be asked to resubmit the draft.
      • Although a “rough draft”, treat this assignment as though it is a final draft.
    • Must include a minimum of 5 unique references (these do not need to be the same as those you used in your annotated bibliography).
    • Of the 5 sources, at least one must be a book, and no more than one can be websites.

  9. Final Draft (40pts)

  10. Due: May 18th
    Overview: This is the culmination of the work you have done this semester. You are the expert in the class on your topic. Turn in something that you are proud of!
    • Must be 8-10 pages long (double-spaced)
    • There should be no spelling or grammatical errors
    • Must include a minimum of 6 unique references
    • Of the 6 sources, at least one must be a book, and no more than two can be websites.

D. Student Research Symposium
The culmination of the project was a symposium, where students who elected to participate presented their findings in a formal setting. Ten students participated (almost 25% of the class) in the symposium. All of the students worked closely with Sara and Pedro to prepare their presentations, all of which utilized PowerPoint presentations.

The symposium was a great success, with over 45 people attending the event, which took place on May 14th from 9am to 12:30pm. (See the attached flier for details about the three panels and student participants). With the funding for the pilot project, we were able to print professional programs for the audience and students, and to fund four prizes which were awarded to four of the students for the quality of their work.


1. An analysis of student final papers:

Out of the 41 students who remained in the class, 9 students did not submit final drafts of their papers. This was about a 78% turn-in rate. While this is certainly lower than we would have wanted given the intensive support that students received, the quality of the students who did submit papers was extremely high. Only one student received a failing grade on the final draft. Of the 38 students who submitted a final draft, the grades broke down as follows: 10 A’s, 12 B’s, 3 C’s, 4 D’s, 1 F. Grades were calculated in accordance with a rubric (attached) that evaluated the number and quality of citations, correct citation and bibliographic formatting, organization, and quality of writing, as well as the overall level of sophistication of their research.

While not all students participated in the symposium, for those who did, it was a wonderful experience. The students worked for hours in the days prior to the symposium preparing their PowerPoint’s, practicing their delivery and timing. While only 10 students out of the class participated, we hope to grow this number in the future. Furthermore, there were at least 20 students in the audience of the symposium, exposing students to quality research conducted by their peers.

We believe that this kind of event, showcasing the academic work done by Chabot students, has a positive impact on the overall culture of the campus – Chabot is a place where students meet and exceed high expectations and are more than capable of conducting college level research. While a community college setting is often known as a “teaching” institution, our students can and should be challenged to conduct the kind of research that will be expected of them if and when they transfer to four-year institutions.

2. Analysis of student grades and retention:

We are waiting for additional data to compare student success rates in this class to those in Sara’s other Introduction to American Government courses Spring 2010. However, anecdotally, the passing rate was likely on par with Sara’s other courses. With regard to the particular basic skill set that the structure and focus of this pilot program was meant to impart, we believe we were extremely successful.

In terms of retention, again, data will provide additional details, but one of the strong indicators of success with regard to retention is clear in the following pieces of information: of the students who had completed all parts of the research assignment from the very first assignment, 100% of them ultimately turned in a final draft; Pedro and Sara met with over half of the students in the class individually more than 2 times; Pedro and Sara both communicated via email with approximately 40% of the class in response to specific questions and progress on the papers; 100% of the students made at least one trip to the library and all but one of students in the class submitted at least one component of the research paper. This information shows that students enrolled in this class, even if they did not pass the class, or complete the final paper, made progress and gained new knowledge in information literacy skills as a result of the project.

3. Class survey and student feedback:

The feedback from students makes the success of the project quite clear, though there are also recommendations that students and the instructors have in order to make the project even more effective. The following are some of the comments from students about their experience in the class and their assessment of their own improvement as researchers and users of library resources.

Please describe how the library sessions helped you with your research assignment for this class?

“The library sessions helped me out with how to organize my paper, in getting help with my outline, and help me find research on my topic.”

“It helped me by helping me learn how to write a research paper and help me with artifacts and info.”

“The library session didn’t help me out at all because all the information I gathered was outside the library. However, the meetings I had with Ms. Parker helped me significantly.”

“They provided a conduit for any extra questions I had.”

“They really helped, especially when we had personal meetings. Pedro helped me find books and sources.”

“The library sessions gave me the tools needed to find my sources.”

“It has helped me by narrowing down and explaining how my is structured and what it should be about. It was also very helpful when finding & citing sources.”

“The main way our library sessions helped me was by brainstorming ideas for my paper. I was really able to narrow my topic down and find a good amount of resources. It also got me started early which is very important for me.”

“It helped me to find reputable web sources. I was able to easily organize the structure of my paper. I became aware of CQ Researcher which led me to my topic, a subject I was completely unaware.”

“This class helped me with finding my research, and it helped me cite it correctly in an essay.”

What in particular did you find most useful about the library sessions?

“I found the computer session most useful learning how to use the library catalog and other links on the homepage.”

“Helping me understand the process and finding research for my paper.”

“The most useful thing about library sessions is that they help you gather and form ideas.”

“The in-depth look into the assignment.”

“The informative powerpoints.”

“Actually talking to other students about what they were researching and getting information from them.”

“Most useful when showing how to research our topic and cite sources. I also like how we go over our papers with others.”

“It wasn’t necessarily the library session, but the private meeting that helped me. It was the perfect way to steer me towards the ability to start on my paper.”

“I found the information about MLA very informative and helpful. The list of questions Pedro provided for us was the most helpful by far.”

What in particular would you add to the library sessions to make them more useful?

“Nothing! They were great and very helpful!”

“Everything was better than expected. Food : ) (just kidding)”

“Possibly more assistants to walk around the students.”

“More hands on and student-to-professor dialogue.”

“Maybe more sessions in general throughout the semester.”

“Assistance finding hard copy sources i.e. books magazines, articles.”

“I would have put the ’10 steps to writing a better research paper’ at the beginning of the process. It helps at this point, but would have meant more earlier on.”

Any final comments?

“I think the library sessions helped develop my outline and find my research.”

“Working on the research paper has been hard, yet a growing pleasure because I have learned a lot.”

“I like the library visits. Very information in a non-stressful way.”

“Great effort on Parker and Pedro for first year doing this program.”

“I have enjoyed the experience of learning about lobbyists and how they function in Government. The library was helpful.”

“Thanks for the help! All our sessions were great help towards my paper.”

“I greatly enjoyed this assignment. I would recommend for this program to continue in the future.”

“Thank you again for letting me a part of the symposium. It was a wonderful experience. I really appreciate all of the hard work you and Pedro put into it. I am very thankful and proud that I won first prize. It means alot.”


  • Pedro Reynoso - Library
  • Sara Parker - Political Science 


BSI Proposal

Course Syllabus

Course/Research Schedule

Research Paper Assignment

Research Paper Assessment Rubric

Student Research Symposium Flyer

Symposium Program

Student Research Symposium Website

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