Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

PsycINFO Tutorial: A Viable Instructional Alternative

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

PsycINFO Tutorial: A Viable Instructional Alternative

Article excerpt

This article questions the effectiveness and overall applicability of a tutorial as an instructional alternative to in-class instruction. A tutorial was developed to instruct undergraduate students in a high-enrollment psychology course, in the use of the PsycINFO database. A pretest and posttest instrument was developed to evaluate retained information. The results demonstrated that the tutorial significantly increased undergraduate students' understanding and use of the PsycINFO database, and that the resources used to develop the tutorial were well spent.


Over the last twenty years, libraries throughout higher education have developed and expanded their formal library instruction programs. These programs are designed to teach students how to identify and locate appropriate library resources efficiently and effectively. As library collections become increasingly electronic, there is a plethora of information resources accessible over the Internet, and it is increasingly complicated for the novice researcher to effectively navigate. The information landscape has increased the demand for library instruction for courses throughout the curriculum at all academic libraries. Furthermore, in this information age, students need to develop more sophisticated information-seeking skills using electronic resources for lifelong learning, regardless of their field of study. Not surprisingly, most campuses have begun to stress information literacy as an essential component of higher education. Librarians devote much of their time partnering with the teaching faculty to integrate library instruction and the effective use of electronic information resources into the fabric of a student's coursework. At most colleges and universities, the need and demand for library instruction exceeds the number of librarians available to offer it. Librarians are always seeking efficiency in the development of materials supporting library instruction and with methods of implementation.

In the 1990s the University of Iowa undergraduate psychology curriculum was substantially changed. The graduation requirements for the B.A. and B.S. degrees were increased. A decision was made to strengthen and emphasize the sophomore-level courses, including the Introduction to Child Development course. At that point, the psychology librarian began to assist each semester in two research assignment sessions in the instructional technology center for the Introduction to Child Development course. Since this course is so important to the curriculum, the faculty decided that information literacy and research were essential elements. To distinguish its undergraduate program from less research-oriented ones, the UI Psychology Department encouraged its undergraduate majors to engage in professional-level independent research through independent study and honors projects. By 1999-2000, more than 40 percent of the graduating psychology majors had participated in independent research. The purposes of this effort were to make classroom learning more meaningful, increase students' awareness of the nature and value of scientific research to society, and prepare the students to effectively evaluate psychological research and media presentations of this research. (1)

For years, the Psychology Department faculty members invited the psychology librarian to provide a lecture about searching the paper version of Psychological Abstracts or do a demonstration of the electronic version of Psychological Abstracts when first the CD-ROM and then the Web-based version became available. PsycINFO is an abstract database of psychological literature dating from the 1800s to the present. Developed by the American Psychological Association as the professional database in the field, PsycINFO currently provides access to more than 1,800 journals, books and book chapters, technical reports, and dissertations. (2)

In 1999 the Psychology Department faculty asked for a tutorial to replace a demonstration and invited the psychology librarian to assist in the instructional technology center when undergraduate students worked on research assignments. …

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