What are research appointments anyway?

You probably have some idea about what a student research appointment with a librarian might entail. A little help with finding those five peer-reviewed sources required for your sociology paper… a reminder about where the comma goes in a new citation style… a hand finding a data set for your group’s marketing project… assistance with narrowing your topic after your professor wrote “too broad” in red ink on the top of your research proposal. Yep, your librarian will definitely come in handy when you need any of these types of research support services. If I walked up to any first-year student and asked, “What do you think a library research appointment is?” I would bet most students would say, “Uhhh, when you have an appointment to learn how to do research better” (or something similar).


Let’s take a look at what that might really mean in practice. I am the social science librarian, and I do about, say, 75 to 125 individual research appointments per semester.  I do most of my research appointments in-person in my office or elsewhere in the Library or over email, although I sometimes meet with students in Storch, or over Skype or Google Hangouts. In these individual meetings––we could call them research consultations, one-on-one instruction, even “research therapy”––I am able to assist you at any stage in the research process, whether it is defining a research topic, narrowing a thesis statement, developing a research strategy, compiling a literature review, locating and accessing subject-specific databases and full-text articles, properly citing sources, mapping out your paper, talking over your topic so you can find out what actually interests you about it, reminding you that you also need to eat and sleep in order to keep functioning as a human being.

Alex speaking to students at NSO


My student research appointments are really about three things:

  1. connecting you to the information you need;
  2. easing your anxiety about doing research; and
  3. building productive relationships with you.


I try to offer reassurance, an attentive ear, and an antidote to library/research anxiety in addition to (and sometimes even more than!) providing straightforward research instruction. Sometimes you come in knowing the basics and just need that extra nudge in the right direction. A lot of the time, what you might really need is someone telling you that you can do this, someone in your corner, coaching you toward your research goals.


Have you ever felt too awkward or embarrassed to come talk to a librarian? Do you ever feel like you “should already know this stuff”? Do you ever feel so behind on your research that you wouldn’t even know what to ask a librarian because the truth is that you haven’t even started to search for articles and the paper is due on Wednesday and you already asked for an extension because, let’s be honest, it was actually due last Wednesday? If this is you, you are NOT alone. I promise you. Come talk to one of us. We want to help you.