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Best Practices for Research and Course Guides




This guide is for archival purposes only.

Please see the new LibGuides Best Practices guide for updated content.

Subject Content of Resources Should be Clear

Guides are not simply lists of resources, nor should they be. They are also instructional tools, telling users not just where but how to do research. This often requires narrative text.  But long paragraphs of text, or groups of paragraphs, make it harder for users to understand quickly what is offered and to get through it. Bullets, sub-headings, etc. help break up and highlight the content both visually and conceptually.

Names of resources whose subject area is not clear, e.g. JSTOR, Francis, PAIS, MLA, CIAO should always have brief descriptions added to them to indicate the type of content.

Resources Sorted by Importance/Usefulness

As students tend to use the first resources listed, it is generally preferable to list them in order of importance rather than alphabetically.

Think about other ways to arrange the sources. For example: in order by importance or value, as you see it; from broad to narrow in subject scope; by date coverage; etc.

It is also desirable to keep lists of resources short – maybe to the top five key resources featured prominently. One may also consider breaking long lists of resources into different boxes based on similar content type.

Continuous Updating

Guide authors should continue to monitor new and changed resources for inclusion in their Research Guides.  Keep the guides in mind whenever a new database (or a link change) is announced, when new editions of books (especially reference books) become available; etc.  

Less is More!

Usability tests from MIT show that students are confused by excessive content. So, tabs, text, lists, number of pages and boxes should be kept to a minimum. 

There's no magic number, but if you have more than 7 or 8 resources in a single content box you should think about how it can divided into more than one box. 

Strive for usability, not comprehensiveness.

Electronic Resources Preferred

Keep mention of print resources to a minimum. Lengthy lists of print titles tend to confuse users.

Avoid Feedback Tools

For the most part student comments, ratings, recommendations should be avoided. Students are seeking advice from experts not from other students.

Restricted Databases

Include the lock icon Icon for "BC Community Only" when providing links to restricted databases