A Religious Studies Boot Camp

By Stephanie Shreffler and Heidi Gauder

August is the time of year when we prepare for boot camp research boot camp, that is.  In collaboration with the religious studies department, librarian Stephanie Shreffler, along with support from librarian Jason Bourgeois, spends time before the start of school teaching graduate research assistants the research skills needed to support the faculty.  

Before the three-day boot camp, librarians survey of the religious studies faculty about their research topics and expectations for their students’ research skills; they also ask the graduate students to rate their research skills in several before and after the workshops.

Each day librarians teach advanced research skills, provide hands-on work opportunities, and assign a brief homework exercise for the next day. On day 1, they take an in-depth look at the library’s online resources and how to find books. On the second day, the focus switches to finding journal articles. Beginning with an introduction to Boolean logic and a discussion of strategies for brainstorming keywords, the librarians next introduce students to databases dedicated to religious studies and theology. On the third day, they learn about primary sources and other sources unique to religious studies.

Although the content is fairly in-depth, the boot camp includes some fun and games: a walking tour of the library to show students relevant service points; a round of “name that Library of Congress subject heading” to help students learn online catalog intricacies in a friendly, competitive manner; and a “build a citation” game to test students’ ability to create an accurate citation in Chicago style.  

This collaboration with the religious studies department not only resolved a stated need; it underscores the University Libraries’ commitment to students and faculty as a partner in the research process — both educating students in information literacy and supporting faculty in their scholarly pursuits.

 Stephanie Shreffler, collections librarian/archivist, U.S. Catholic Special Collection; and Heidi Gauder, coordinator of research and instruction
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