Library Instruction

Library Instruction

The Patrick Power Library is committed to teaching students how to find and use information effectively. The Library offers instruction to both groups and individuals through its program of classroom and lab instruction, online learning, and research by appointment service.

Classroom and Lab Instruction | ResearchBase | Academic Integrity Foundations | Tutorials and Help GuidesIndividual Instruction


Classroom and Lab Instruction

Professors can arrange to have course-related library instruction for their students. In consultation with the instructor, librarians will tailor sessions to meet individual class requirements and assignments. We will work with you to develop hands-on activities for the classroom or, where computer labs are available, for lab sessions. Instruction in advanced research skills and specialized resources can also be arranged for upper-year and graduate classes. We can provide information literacy training to your TAs.

The following Instruction Menu lists the kinds of topics that can be covered in an instruction session. The list is not exhaustive, and the time needed to cover each topic is approximate.  We are flexible, and can visit your classes more than once, for shorter or longer times, as requested.  We are also available for evening and weekend classes. If you would like to book an instruction session or would like more information about our program, please contact Heather Sanderson at 902-420-5541. When scheduling a library session, please give as much advance notice as possible (preferably two weeks).

[Library Instruction PDF version]

Instruction Menu:
Topics & Time Requirements


Introduction & Conclusion (required)

  • purpose of session, where/who to contact for further help, questions, etc.
5 minutes

Developing a Search Strategy

  • defining a research topic
  • identifying keywords, related words & synonyms
10 minutes

Scholarly Journals versus Popular Magazines versus Trade Publications

  • hands-on look at scholarly and non-scholarly publications and the differences between them
  • discussion of "peer review"
10-15 minutes

Primary versus Secondary Sources

  • discussion of the differences between these types of sources
10 minutes

Searching Novanet/Catalogue Basics

  • book and journal searching
  • getting materials from other libraries
  • accessing your library account
  • "Live Help" service
15 minutes

Searching Databases (demonstration of basic search techniques)

  • keyword searching, combining search terms using AND and OR, basic limit and expand options, interpreting results, locating full-text articles

20 minutes

(add 10 minutes for interactive activity and for each additional database)

Searching Databases (demonstration of advanced search techniques)

  • basic search techniques (above) plus advanced search features such as thesaurus/descriptor searching, citation searching, saving searches and setting up alerts, exporting results to citation manager, etc.

30 minutes

(add 10 minutes for interactive activity and for each additional database)

Understanding Database Results/Deciphering Database Records

  • identifying elements of a citation; distinguishing between different types of sources

5 minutes

(add 5 minutes for interactive activity)

Searching Statistical Databases

  • locating statistics using the Statistics Canada web site and various statistical databases
60-75 minutes

Searching the Internet and Web Site Evaluation

  • benefits and disadvantages of the Web as an information source
  • search techniques for getting better results, using Google Scholar, etc.
  • discussion of how to identify credible web sites
20-30 minutes

Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism

  • interactive workshop that includes a discussion of the kinds of behaviours that constitute academic dishonesty, as well as tips for avoiding plagiarism
  • examples can be tailored to disciplines

60-75 minutes for  workshop

less time for presentations (e.g., if AIF is assigned)  

Citation Styles

  • importance of citing sources, location of citation guidelines (APA, MLA, etc.)
  • interactive workshop that includes practice exercises on citing

5 minutes

30 minutes for workshop



An online library assignment in Brightspace, ResearchBase teaches students the basics of researching in an academic library. ResearchBase is comprised of a series of learning modules and online quizzes designed to teach students the skills they need to find materials for their research assignments and essays. Students will learn how to define a topic, plan a search strategy, search for books and journals using the library catalogue, and locate journal articles using a journal database. If you would like information about ResearchBase, or would like to assign it in your course, please contact Cindy Harrigan at 902-496-8789.

Academic Integrity Foundations

Academic Integrity Foundations (AIF) is an interdisciplinary online library assignment in Brightspace that teaches students about the importance of academic integrity and how to avoid academic mistakes such as plagiarism. A series of five learning modules that incorporate scenarios and self-testing quizzes for understanding and a final pass/fail test, AIF covers academic integrity, recognizing plagiarism, understanding how to incorporate and cite source material in assignments, and strategies for avoiding academic mistakes. The material is designed to be educational and preventative. If you would like more information about AIF, or would like to assign it in your course, please contact Heather (902-420-5541) or Cindy (902-496-8789).

Tutorials and Help Guides

The Library has many subject research guides and help guides available to help students learn about research resources in their subjects and develop their information skills. Feel free to link to them in your class materials or embed them in your Brightspace courses. We can show you how to do this. We are always developing new guides and tutorials. Please contact Heather (902-420-5541) or Cindy (902-496-8789) if you have any suggestions for a guide or tutorial you'd like us to make.

Individual Instruction

Assistance is offered to individuals through the Library's Research-by-Appointment service. Both students and faculty may schedule appointments with a librarian for in-depth assistance in the use of the Library's print and electronic resources. Students may use this service to discuss specific research difficulties or to find information for a topic or assignment. This service can also be used by Faculty who would like to discuss with a librarian their research projects, new course proposals (and the resources available to support them) or plagiarism cases. Appointments can be booked by contacting the Library's Research Help Desk.

Contact us

Patrick Power Library
Mailing address:
Saint Mary's University
923 Robie Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 3C3

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