Navigating Academic Research: SHINE Library Sessions

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L-R: Sherre Fu and Dr. Shalini Ravichandran

In addition to doing research specific to each of their professor’s engineering labs this summer, SHINE students are also learning many transferable skills that they’ll use in college and beyondTo help foster the students’ intellectual curiosity and shape their understanding of scholarly research conventions, we called in reinforcements from librarians Dr. Shalini Ravichandran, Sheree Fu, and Lisa Crowley from the USC’s Science & Engineering Library 

 In two sessions on Friday 7/6 and Monday 7/9, the SHINERs participated in workshops designed to introduce them to college-level academic research. These sessions covered everything from keyword selection to optimized Internet searching to the politics of open-access publication to the value of the peer-review process in determining and sustaining scholarly merit. 

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F-B: SHINE students Stephanie and Alex

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L-R:  SHINE students Brian and Jessica

The workshops were organized around an annotated bibliography assignment, a commonplace in college classrooms and an important research tool for documenting and assessing the merits of source material. For the assignment, SHINE students are to choose a topic of interest to them—one they’d like to investigate further 

Some students are choosing topics related to the work they’re doing this summer in their labs. Others are turning to questions and interests that have long fascinated them. Jessica Lee, for example, loves bananas, and was busy during Friday’s session investigating all manner of recent scientific studies conducted on her favorite fruit.  

Regardless of their chosen topic, however, the SHINE students are participating firsthand in the process and production of scholarly research. In the second library workshop, the librarians organized activities around the theme of “conversations. This session saw the SHINE students not only discussing the peer-review process in the abstract, but also modeling it in action. In small groups, the students traded drafts of annotated bibliography entries they prepared in advance and assessed the entries on their scholarly merit. With an eye towards precision of APA citation conventions and quality of the written summary, the students awarded their peers’ drafts scores out of 20 points possible 

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L-R: SHINE students Omkar, Marcus and Trystan

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L-R: SHINE students Iris, Manaeha and Trystan, who all celebrated a birthday together

Since the entries being assessed were only drafts, they were far from perfect. But in the peer-review process, the students witnessed how seeking input from their peers can work to make their own writing better. With the notes and impressions of informed but skeptical outside readers, the original author gained invaluable information that he or she can incorporate into the final annotated bibliography draft.  

 The myth of the lone scientific genius is just that—a myth. In actuality, collaboration is integral to producing and sustaining the quality of academic knowledge. And in STEM subjects especially, such community spirit is the driving force behind innovation for a better future for all. SHINE students have already spent four weeks learning these lessons in their engineering labs, where they work alongside Ph.D. candidates, postdocs, and professors. But now with the help of USC’s Science & Engineering librarians, the SHINE students have seen that the collaborative spirit extends even further into the public sphere through the written word.  

In short, any intellectual pursuit is best explored and refined when it is also shared with others.  

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