Faculty Liaison & Instruction Librarian University of Toronto Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Background: The number of knowledge syntheses (KS) published has steadily increased; this trend is reflected at our academic library where we have experienced a dramatic rise in KS consultations.
To meet this need, we developed a workshop series grounded in our belief that graduate students can not only learn KS search skills but that it’s crucial for them to understand how the search affects overall review quality. When designing our instruction, we strove to demystify the KS search process for our students, reflecting deeply on our own habits and being radically transparent about why do things the way we do them.
Description: Since March 2017, our 3-part series has been offered 9 times to over 400 participants. It is designed for graduate students in the health sciences and consists of 3 2.5 hour sessions. During these interactive workshops, students practice an objective, structured method for developing exhaustive search strategies; identify potential sources for bias in their search and develop strategies to mitigate them; and prepare search strategies to ensure proper reporting.
Our teaching is rooted in principles of instructional design and we use an iterative process of content creation. Each session utilizes a combination of lecture slides, individual activities, online polls, and group activities. We believe in authentic and intentional engagement, a focus on processes not tools, and incorporating active learning.
Conclusion: Student reflections and follow-up consultations indicate that participants are motivated to improve their searching. Importantly, they show concern for research waste generated by poor reviews, thinking critically about not only improvements they can make in their own reviews, but the difference they can make to the KS landscape overall. Following the workshop, many students are excited to share their new skills with their team, while others expand their team to recruit librarian expertise, or pivot the project entirely for more feasible deliverables. We are expanding our programming to include workshops for supervisors and non-medical librarians working with students conducting KS.