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Mulford Library Services & Resources for Health Science Faculty

Information on specialized library services and resources to meet the research and instruction needs of faculty

Students and Library Anxiety: A Note to Faculty Members

Students who are novice researchers may not have a good grasp on the body of knowledge in their disciplines and may not have gained enough knowledge of the subject matter to handle basic assignments. They lack the characteristics of the expert researcher: 1) a long process of acculturation to the field, 2) knowledge of the discipline and supporting fields, and 3) well-developed personal information seeking strategies (Leckie, 1996).

Novice researches may face these issues that contribute to anxiety:

  • Inabilty to focus their topic to a manageable idea
  • Lack of time or patience to do the wide background reading necessary to focus their topic
  • Lack of understanding of the structure of scholarly literature
  • Inability to find and use appropriate material, e.g. distinguishing between a research article, a review article, and an opinion article
  • Novice researchers vary in terms of the ability to think critically about the information found in searches, and may ignore information that contradicts the information they think is right
  • Increasing levels of anxiety may negatively influence future assignments

So what's a faculty member to do?

  • Assignments need to be carefully designed: make the assignment challenging, so that the students' skills improve, but not so difficult they are are unable to demonstrate what you are asking them to demonstrate.
  • Keep tabs on how students are doing:
    • Design long assignments to be turned in in stages;
    • Require that a research journal be submitted regularly for review;
    • Use focused minute papers throughout the semester
  • Refer students to a librarian for help with finding relevant information resources. They can:
    • Stop by any of our libraries and talk to a reference librarian;
    • they can also call, email, or send us an IM.
    • Appointments can also be made with a librarian; they usually last 30-45 minutes and address the student's questions and issues. (Appointments are not just for students; you can also set up an appointment with a librarian for yourself.)


Leckie, G. J. (1996). Desperately seeking citations: Uncovering faculty assumptions about the undergraduate research process. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 22 (3): 201-8. Available online from the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center