First-Year Writing & The Library

The First-Year Writing program has a strong collaborative relationship with Duke University Libraries. The innovative library instruction component supports the foundational mission of Writing 101 to introduce students to the meaningful use of scholarly resources in their writing.

Library instruction in Writing 101 provides a venue for students to further develop their critical thinking and research skills, and facilitates the transfer of these skills beyond their first year. Assessment of student learning is conducted using the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, developed by ACRL (Association of College & Research Libraries).

Library Instruction Overview

Students in each Writing 101 course participate in individually tailored, hands-on instruction with a subject specialist librarian on using library resources for academic research. Course-specific library guides, with links to electronic resources and tips on research skills, are created for each library session. Many Writing 101 courses also work with archivists and curators from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to utilize unique primary source materials. After participating in the library sessions, first-year students are well prepared to complete writing projects involving library research, and they have the skills they need to identify, access and use materials in a variety of formats

Planning Your Library Session

Instructors will be contacted by the librarian assigned to work with their class prior to the start of the semester. During this time the instructor should expect to discuss their goals for the students, decide on special collections use, and determine a date for the instruction session. Before the session the librarian will provide an outline for the class, as well as a list of learning outcomes.

Scheduling the instruction session(s):

Incorporate the library instruction session(s) into the semester schedule during points of need. Scheduling an instruction session a couple of weeks before the first major research assignment encourages students to immediately practice research skills acquired during the library instruction session.

Providing course site access to the librarian:

Many instructors allow librarians to access their Sakai course site as a course builder. This enables the librarian to embed a LibGuide into the course site. For more information about how to add a librarian to your site, see the "How To" guide.

Preparing students for the instruction session:

Students will be better prepared for the session if they bring one or two research interests to class. In addition, the library has created a LibGuide for Writing 101 students to review before class. This guide provides students with some basic information for using the library. If you decide to have students review the guide prior to the instruction session it will allow them to spend more in-class time on research. This work should take no more than 10-15 minutes. We encourage students to review the guide the day before the instruction session so that any technical problems or concerns can be addressed at the beginning of class. Alert the librarian if students will be assigned pre-class work using the LibGuide so that they may plan class time accordingly. You can access this guide at

Participating in the instruction session:

Plan to attend class with students on the day of library instruction. Instructor presence is valued and enriches the session. Instructors should expect to answer assignment and course specific questions that students may have during class, assist with in-class research activities, and encourage participation in end-of-class assessment.

Engaging in post-session activities:

Previous TWP fellows have noted that it is important to dedicate some in-class time after the library instruction session for skill reinforcement. For feedback on designing a syllabus that incorporates and makes good use of library resources, contact Denise Comer, Director of First-Year Writing. For suggestions on how to assess student learning or design post-instruction session research activities contact Hannah Rozear, Instructional Services Librarian. The library suggests the following post-session learning activities:

  • Reflect and discuss successful research strategies and results.
  • Refine research strategies with the help of peers or through in-class lab time.
  • Review when to cite sources and what constitutes plagiarism.
  • Address technical problems (exporting citations to RefWorks, ILL account creation).