Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides

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  • Table of Contents
  • About the Authors

Whether you call them research guides, subject guides or pathfinders, web-based guides are a great way to create customized support tools for a specific audience: a class, a group, or anyone engaging in research. Studies show that library guides are often difficult, confusing, or overwhelming, causing users to give up and just fall back on search engines such as Google. How can librarians create more effective, less confusing, and simply better research guides?
In Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides, author Jason Puckett takes proven ideas from instructional design and user experience web design and combines them into easy-to-understand principles for making your research guides better teaching tools. It doesn't matter what software your library uses; the advice and techniques in this book will help you create guides that are easier for your users to understand and more effective to use.

Jason Puckett is also the author of the ACRL publication Zotero: A Guide for Librarians, Researchers, and Educators.


Foreword by Aaron Dobbs


About This Book
What Is Instructional Theory?
Searching the LIS Literature
A Note about LibGuides
My Background

Chapter 1: Research Guides and Instructional Theory

What Is a Research Guide?
What Are Research Guides For?
Terminology Used in This Book
Common Problems in Creating Research Guides
How Can Guides Teach?

Chapter 2: Learning Objectives in Research Guides

What Is a Learning Objective?
Defining Your Learning Objectives

The Stem
The Action Verb
The Outcome

Putting Objectives to Work in Your Research Guides
Building a Guide Structure from Your Objectives

Chapter 3: Learning Styles

What Are Learning Styles?
Learning Styles: Three Models

Perceptual Preference Modality
Kolb Experiential Learning Model
Gardner's Multiple Intelligences

Applying Learning Style Theory to Library Research Guides
Examples: Using Learning Styles in Research Guides


Drawbacks and Practical Concerns
Summing Up: Some Simple Best Practices

Chapter 4: Designing and Writing for Better Usability

User Experience

What Is UX?
UX and Online Instruction

Visual Design for Nondesigners

Using Images
Focal Points
Unintentional Focal Points

Simplicity and Clarity
Consistency of Design
How Users Read on the Web

The F Shape
Above the Fold

Writing for the Web

Making Clear and Useful Links
Annotating Links
What to Cut?

Summing Up: Some Simple Best Practices

Chapter 5: Assessment

What Are You Assessing?
Using Rubrics and Analyzing Guide Content

How to Use Rubrics
Assessment Example: Rubric

User Surveys

How to Use Surveys
Assessment Examples: Surveys

Web Analytics

What Analytics Assessment Can Tell You
Assessment Examples: Analytics


Chapter 6: Planning, Coordinating, and Administrating Guides


Tying Guide Goals to Instruction Program Goals
Sample Instruction Goals with Research Guide Components

The Research Guide Coordinator

Control: How Much Is Too Much?
Guide Coordinator Case Study

Maintenance and Administrative Tasks

Regular and Periodic Maintenance
Accounts and Ownership
Collecting and Reporting Data
Upgrading and Overhauling

Extending Your Reach

Classroom Instruction
Make Guides Findable
Faculty Outreach
Social Media
Library Website
Your Mileage May Vary

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle
Establishing Best Practices

Author Biography

Jason Puckett

Jason Puckett is Communication and Anthropology Librarian, Librarian for Virtual Services, and Assistant Professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta. He was a Library Journal Mover and Shaker for 2010 for his work with technology in libraries. Puckett has a BA in English from Georgia State University and an MLIS from Florida State University, and has worked in libraries since 1993. He is a B-movie fan and an enthusiastic but unskilled video gamer. Puckett’s other book from ACRL, Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides, explores how ideas from user experience web design and learning theory can help librarians make online guides more effective and easier to use. He’s also written about digital rights management and open source and open access issues in libraries. More links and information about this book are available at The bibliography is available as a public group library at GSU’s Zotero guide, shared under a Creative Commons license, is available at

Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)

Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for librarians. Representing more than 11,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals, ACRL develops programs, products and services to help academic and research librarians learn, innovate and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning and transforming scholarship.

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