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Bakersfield College

Library shelf full of books

Survival Skills

These are the skills college freshmen need to succeed:

  1. Students need practice refining research questions.
    This involves coming up with an idea and starting with background reading in reference materials to shape or change their thesis.
  2. Students need familiarity with a variety of types of sources their professors will require them to use: reference works, books, periodicals, web sites, etc.
    They should know how to locate these sources, retrieve and use information from all of these types of sources.
  3. College students need to know about the different kinds of periodicals, journals, and magazines.
    Professors require even lower-division students to read and comment on peer reviewed articles. Students should know the meaning of peer-reviewed, journal, serial, periodical, scholarly, etc.
  4. College students need to know how to effectively access and utilize databases.
    This includes citing databases and understanding the various types of media available on databases
  5. College students need to know how to create search statements for online sources.
    They need to understand the difference between subject heading and keywords searching in a library catalog or database. They should be able to do advanced searching in a free search engines (Google). Students should know Boolean search terms (and, or, not) and how they work, as well as how to use limiters.
  6. It’s essential for students to be comfortable using more than Google for research.
    Students should understand what the differences are between the visible and the invisible web. Many professors will NOT let students use only nonsubscription Internet sources.
  7. College students must know how to evaluate resources and to use the best resources possible.
    This entails more than knowing the difference between .gov and .com.
  8. Students also need exposure to making citations for at least books, periodical articles, and database resources.
    Sure, there are citation builders, but they don’t always work that well, and it takes practice to do citations correctly.
  9. Students must know how to use in-text citations.
    Most incoming freshmen students are unfamiliar with how to properly use in-text citations.  This drives professors crazy. Students must be familiar with at least one style: MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.
  10. Students simply must know enough about plagiarism to avoid committing it.
    Many colleges have very stiff penalties for all forms of academic dishonesty. Students should understand the nuances of summarizing, paraphrasing, quoting, etc. and that ALL require citations.
  11. Students should be comfortable using online library catalogs to find information.
    High school library catalogs are often very different from university catalogs. Most college libraries use the Library of Congress Classification system; most high schools use Dewey. Either way, students need to know what a call number is and how to use a map of the library to find different locations.
  12. There’s more in a college library than books.
    College libraries often have materials on reserve for specific classes, like textbooks and study guides. Many college libraries lend equipment, like graphing calculators. Nearly all college libraries offer online access to articles from magazines, journals, and newspapers; most also offer some books online.
  13. College libraries often offer online tutorials and/or orientation classes.
    Even though students may feel overwhelmed, they should take the time to utilize these resources to learn more about the campus library.
  14. College libraries employ Reference Librarians!
    Reference librarians are there to help students to find the best possible resources and save time. Nobody expects students to know where everything is in the library, so they should feel comfortable asking questions — by phone, email, or in person.


These tips are adapted from a list compiled by Academic (i.e. College) Librarians and were retrieved from the Information Literacy Instruction Discussion List (hosted on the American Library Association server, sponsored by the Instruction Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries).

Prepared by Nancy Guidry and Dawn Dobie, Bakersfield College Library, November 2012. Updated 2017

Kern Community College District