Diving into APA Style Citation with DNP Students

The Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program came to me with a request in Fall 2016:  would I work more closely with her DNP students as they complete their dissertations?  She was frantic (“They need help with APA!”) and requested immediate assistance.  When the cohort began in early January, at the beginning of the new year, I met the ten DNP students, who were anything but refreshed.  I dedicated five hour-long sessions from January through March to help these students write an APA-style research paper.

The sessions were as follows:

1. Paraphrasing v. Summarizing – A Review

The first of the five sessions was conducted in person, and the following four were in a synchronous online space.  Because of the constraints of online courses, I decided to tackle paraphrasing in Session 1, which I thought would benefit from in-class discussion.  I think that paraphrasing is one of the hardest parts of APA because interpretation is involved.

I introduced the students to paraphrasing via Purdue OWL and then gave them an assignment:  could they paraphrase four paragraphs from four separate research articles?  They were given time to work in small groups and then shared their attempts with the class for evaluation.  My hope was that students would be able to paraphrase and summarize successfully, remember to cite paraphrased or summarized content, and identify how a seemingly easy endeavor is, in fact, intricate.  This assignment certainly inspired a great deal of discussion!  Throughout all of their work I provided suggestions for more active reading and stronger articulation of meaning, but the amount of ambiguity of my own class participation resulted in many students expressing frustration.  If you have taught a similar class to this one, I certainly would love to hear about it!

2.  Citation of Resources A-Z

In order to cover the development of a reference page I recycled my content my previous APA Citation Workshop Series.  I added a bit of instruction on how to request use of figures from other’s publications and how to include copyright statements.

3.  Tables and Figures in APA Style

In the middle of a snow storm, I promised to teach the students about proper table formatting in APA style.  However, I was unable to get to work and, unbeknownst to me, we do not have Microsoft Office at my house!  So a video tutorial had to do.  Here it is, in under 10 minutes!


4. Grammar Rules

Many students write as they speak, and need to be reminded of the rules for scholarly (aka formal) writing. We discussed rules of hyphenation, active and passive voice, contractions, gender pronouns, abbreviation, punctuation, verb agreement, and capitalization. One surprising takeaway – did you know that data is plural?

5. Scholarship and Wrap-Up

I wanted these students to be prepared for publication in their new field so during this session I discussed Creative Commons, Open Access, and ORCID ids. I wanted the students to recognize the value of Open Access, I am a librarian after all! I hope that they recognize that they have choices when publishing and that there is value in allowing their research to be immediately and widely available. In the future I hope to include predatory journals in this discussion, but I’m not entirely knowledgeable in this area. I would love some reading recommendations!

Wrap-up also included any lingering questions and a form for feedback. Overall, the students requested that I hold more sessions and that the topics be introduced earlier in their program. One student said that they hung my PowerPoints all over their office for reference, a scene that makes me chuckle. Another student suggested that the sessions allow students to practice while I am present. Perhaps in the future I will use the whiteboard function of Blackboard Collaborate and allow students to type up citations for review? If so, I will report back.

Teaching DNP students is a challenge. They are tired from a long day of work, overwhelmed at the amount of schoolwork expected of them, and respected in their field. I quickly learned to exhibit great compassion and humility while leading these sessions. The students responded well when I directed them to reference resources in my efforts to teach them and not just provide the answers. Though this was an intensive experience, I am happy that my own knowledge of APA has developed significantly and hope that I was able to support these students’ performance to their advantage.

The Dark Days of Information Retrieval

On November 20th, 2016 I revealed my professional purpose to my family in a way I had never done before. I posted the following on Facebook:

As a librarian, I am constantly asking students to read and ask questions about the purpose, point of view, and credibility of resources before they use them to inform their own opinions. This article helps to reveal the information structures that exist within social media. Algorithms already manipulate what news you see, whose posts you read, and who sees the things you post. Encouraging awareness of information structures and power dynamics is also part of my job.

When I first accepted my job as a Public Services Librarian I was repeatedly asked what my job responsibilities were – do you think I’ll continue receiving these questions? Before this post, I had never before formed such a statement of self-purpose. But, I’ve been told that I am increasingly relevant and that my friends and family take great pride in my job, and so I should feel confident to assert my professional endeavors everywhere, not just on campus.

The Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education states that “Information creation is a process.” Generally, this frame is the foundation to discussions about peer-reviewed journals and social media posts, or, recently, fake news. However, as I hinted above, I’ve been thinking much more about the algorithms that alter the way we connect with information.

Algorithms are the method that any search engine, feed reader, or social media platform use to deliver content to you. Companies do not publicize the logic, or priorities, that structure the way content is delivered, though web developers and marketing professionals do work hard to manipulate the code so that their content is delivered first. In a world of increasing reliance upon digital delivery of information I think we should call for transparency in algorithm development!

For now, we are on defense – we learn how these algorithms affect our lives after the fact. For example, Dylann Roof’s radicalization story is closely tied to the algorithm that automatically completes Google search terms. An NPR article  reports on Roof’s information search:

[Roof] said that after hearing about [Trayvon] Martin’s death he had “decided to look his name up. Type him into Google, you know what I’m saying?” Roof told investigators that he had read the Wikipedia article for Martin, and then “for some reason after I read that, I,” he paused before continuing, “I typed in – for some reason it made me type in the words black on white crime.”

This same article reveals that by typing “black on” the autocomplete function suggests “black on white crime.” By typing “white on” the autocomplete function suggests “white on white crime.” We don’t know why, but the important thing to know is that these algorithms are written by people and so they can be changed (which Google has done with some inflammatory search terms) and can contain bias. The algorithm development is a process too!

The algorithm that Facebook uses to get posts to user’s feed has also been under scrutiny for creating filter bubbles, the name given to the echo chamber that is created by an algorithm that prioritizes showing users posts from their friends, people who agree with their ideological views. Filter bubbles help in the spread and acceptance of fake news, which was prolific on Facebook during the presidential campaign. Since then, Facebook has voiced a desire to decrease the spread of fake news in the future. How? By becoming a media company or, at least, starting a “journalism project.” According to another NPR report, Facebook will be hiring engineers to make Facebook a better platform for news distribution. One of the initiatives of the Facebook Journalism Project is to “invest(ing) in research and projects that promote ‘news literacy.’” How will the company increase its user’s critical evaluation of the news? A great place to start would be to reveal the structures that get the news to their feed. Will they do that? Probably not.

It’s hard to teach others about the bias, power dynamics, and social structures written into algorithms that fuel our information retrieval online when they are the property of corporations who gain from their private nature. However, the Framework outlines a good place to start: “accept[ing] the ambiguity surrounding the potential value of information creation expressed in emerging formats or modes.” We need to be vigilant about identifying the value, authority, and purpose of information that circulates in our social media and populates our search rankings. And let’s call for more information and transparency surrounding the structures that get information into our digital hands and reasoned minds today!

The Books I Read in 2016


2016 was the first year I began and ended as an academic librarian.  The books I’ve read definitely reflect that professional change – learning about assessment, information literacy instruction, critical pedagogy, developing a student advisory board – it’s been a busy year!  (I must admit, I’m still working through the essays of the Critical Library Pedagogy Handbook, but they are so good I couldn’t wait to include it in next year’s review.

I also made a bit of time for reading for fun.  Ever since I finished graduate school I don’t take any moment spent reading fiction for granted.  I received Meghan Daum’s My Misspent Youth and Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem Essays from my dear friend Katie Eelman of media + events at Papercuts J.P.  Obviously, she has great taste and there are other recommendations from her and others on their site!  My first Margaret Atwood was a head-scratcher, but fun.  I’ve always loved Louise Erdrich.  And Mark Magro is a friend, and his first YA novel is really good!  The Interestings and Station Eleven were gleaned from a Twitter conversation from Anna Sale of Death, Sex, and Money and Marc and I read them aloud to each other during our honeymoon.  We spent an entire day in bed… reading.

There are probably a few books that I’m forgetting; I’ll do a better job of keeping track next year!  If you’re reading this and have a book suggestion please comment below!  I think you can tell my interests are pretty eclectic!

Finals 2016

Testing at the end of a semester is part of the process and helps to determine growth, but it’s a time when students are anxiously finishing papers, cramming for tests, and, in the case of one library student worker, finishing a beautiful drawing of burning heart tulips.  The end of the semester has been much different for me.  I haven’t taught in a few weeks and have spent the time working on some on-going projects: instruction scaffolding, assessment, and conference planning.  I’ve also used the time to join together with my coworkers and create a bit of fun to ease those testing brains.

Inspired by some of the work by members of the Library Marketing and Outreach group, we decided to hold a raffle and give away the librarians’ conference room as a designated study space for one lucky winner and their friends.  And to make the win even sweeter (and the poster way cooler), we through in a pizza… and a box of donuts.  It was nice to make a few students happy.raffle-for-finals-2016

We did have a bit of an ulterior motive.  We were hoping that everyone who entered the raffle (66 people) would follow us on social media in order to see if they won.  It seemed logical to us, and we don’t think that we have a lot of current students aware of our social media presence.  But, it didn’t work!  Not a single additional follower!  I’m not entirely sure why.  But, the conference room, donuts, and pizza were a hit.  Our winner was very thankful for the designated space since the library has been very full during the past week.

We wanted to bring joy to more than just a small group of students, so we had a special activity on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Do you like my designs?

Free coffee for students studying in the library was the first by-product of the first meeting of our Student Advisory Board.  (YAY!)  And the coffee was a hit for the entire day!  We went through 160 cups of coffee, which we diligently brewed with a humongous percolator.

One of our student worker’s mothers led us in meditation on Tuesday.  This was my personal favorite moment of finals fun.  Cindy discussed chakras, energy, and how people born after 1991 have an easier time seeing the colors associated with the energy centers of the body.  Apparently this has something to do with crystals in one’s teeth and joints.

And then on Wednesday afternoon we put out cupcakes, icing, and sprinkles for students to decorate!  I’ve had a love affair with Funfetti since high school (you can read more about that in a lovely piece written by my girl) – I have yet to meet someone on this earth who doesn’t love the sprinkles and the sweet fluff of pudding cake.  img_20161214_162004645

And now, as students finish their semester one final at a time, the library is slowly emptying.  It will be very quiet for about a month until the spring semester starts.  I’m anxiously awaiting that time – I’ve been reading the Critical library Pedagogy Handbook and have so many ideas for classroom conversations regarding social justice!

All things to all people: An unjust suggestion and its inverse

In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul discusses winning others to Christianity by making himself like the individuals with which he comes into contact.  “To the weak I become weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22, NIV).  This verse was the focus of Sunday school lessons and podcast episodes of my childhood and sometimes it slips into my head when I’m at work.  Paul appears to be recommending flexibility, a quality that may as well be included in the title of Public Services Librarian.  When a student asks me to look over their citations and mentions that I might, also, read the paper to see if it makes sense – I, like many other amenable librarians (I bet), am tempted to do so.  For some, this may not be seen as a fault.  Librarians aren’t converting others to a religion, but the profession puts such a strong emphasis on service that  I often feel like I’m trying to create library converts so that the value of the institution, and essentially my role at the university, is recognized.  I submit that the ‘all things to all people’ model is alive in librarianship because it is alive in me, but this post is a reminder to myself that it is a disservice to myself and my constituents.

Most importantly, I feel like the ‘All things to all people’ model lacks integrity and is the opposite of cultural humility.  Sara Zettervall (2016) calls to librarians to stand up for the experience of others: “Our responsibility as human servants committed to social justice, whether we are social workers or librarians, is to foster awareness in ourselves that our perspective isn’t the only one and trust others when they speak about their own lives.” I am so proud to have this responsibility.  If I were to follow Paul’s example and change the components of my experience in order to connect with others I would be decreasing the importance of their experience.  Instead, I need to listen and support, provide space for other individual’s truth to be heard.  I need to recognize the authority of another’s experience and think about how their experiences have created information that is a valid, important part of the world.

‘All things to all people’ decreases the position with which I see myself.  I need to value myself enough to know my talents, interests, perspective, and schedule and allow my actions to be consequences of these components of my personality.  This will reduce burnout, increase passion, and likely increase the effectiveness of my career.

‘All things to all people’ does not allow me to exhibit inter-relational humility.  When a student requests help in an area where I am not an expert, it is my best course of action to humble myself before them and place value in their endeavor.  I can suggest additional expert resources so that they are receiving the best help and have the best chance at the best result.

I will be content with being some things to some people.  I will seek to exhibit cultural humility, relational humility, and personal strength.  This isn’t anything new, but arguing against the tired monologue in my head that tells me to try to be everything for everyone is freeing.  I needed to hear, from myself, that it is alright to direct my professional life by staying true, being honest, and placing value on both my experience and authority and the experiences and authority of others.  I am only one person, and I have the opportunity to place importance on my community by emphasizing the humility of my situation – I’m good at some things but often need to defer to others.  And, in that way, I can be a good example to all people.

APA Citation Workshop Series

One of the challenges I’ve embraced in my position is instruction of APA formatting and citation.  My colleagues do not enjoy teaching citation style, likely because of the shortcomings of the content: it is neither exciting for students nor challenging for those of us who have mastered it long ago.  Last school year my instruction was limited to a nursing class every once in a while.  This year the nursing department requested that I do APA Citation workshops to encourage student ownership of their success and so began my efforts to create an engaging and informative APA Citation workshop series.

My first worry was student attendance.  A workshop series is only successful if students show up!  Previous library workshops were very poorly attended.  Therefore, for this set of workshops we decided to host them on Blackboard Collaborate.  Each synchronous online meeting is about an hour long from 8-9 PM on dates that spanned my entire work week to provide a variety of possible opportunities.

I created this flyer to advertise the workshop series.  They were sent around campus to department secretaries, posted in hallways, and included in the university-wide daily email.

We’ve had two sessions so far and they have been a relative success!  Student attendance has been around 10 people a session.  I utilize a PowerPoint for presentation purposes, but I want these workshops to be interactive! There are a few components of my instruction that I feel have been critical to our success:

  1.  Poll Everywhere polls.  Everyone loves participating in a poll and they are even more fun when they give students the opportunity to write short answer responses.citation-importance
  2. Color coded reference instruction.  Students don’t seem to see the similarities in each citation even if I specifically state that the type of bibliographic information included in each citation does not change between texts.  Colors help students identify the similarities between references.  I’ve utilized these colors throughout the entire Power Point so that the information in an in-text citation can be connected to the full reference more easily.citing-an-article-screenshot
  3. Practice “reading” citations.  This is a fun opportunity for students to engage with the presentation and helps them to practice identifying the components of the citation.  I generally provide the first example so they know what I’m looking for:  “C. Lockwood wrote “What is the best nursing handover style to ensure continuity of information for hospital patients?,” which was published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies in 2016.  It is in volume 58 on pages 97 through 99.”  Of course, these citations can be read in different ways, but the idea is that they begin to recognize the different pieces of bibliographic information.

Teaching APA citation has been a challenge, but it has provided me with additional experience utilizing Blackboard Collaborate (Ultra – I’m testing the next generation.  It’s great!), leading my own instruction sessions, and engaging students online.  It has seriously increased the number of calls I receive on a daily basis.  I am now widely recognized as the “APA Expert” on campus, and instructors across campus send their students my way for assistance.  In this case, a challenging experience has opened up an opportunity to do something I love!  I have had a few occasions to discuss the benefits of Zotero, a citation management tool that I ADORE, and so I have a few Zotero workshops in my near future.  Stay tuned!

Reflections on Summer #1

I have a note on my desk to remind me to reflect on my experiences and problems and construct my own understanding.  Time and time again I remind myself that reflection is an important part of the learning process; I need to be mindful of my successes and failures and in my day-to-day activities.  The following text is a bit jumbled, as it is my reflection on my first summer employed by a university.  I think this is representative of my experience.  I’ve discovered that summer is a time to work on many projects in rapid succession.

Other academic librarians that I met had told me that the summer is a time to recoup after a long year.  I imagined that my summer would be spent accomplishing a big project (didn’t happen…).  It didn’t occur to me that I would teach for the entire summer.  Yes, it isn’t quite as busy, but the ACCESS classes that I serve go through the summer – so there wasn’t a break.

I did finish a few marketing projects.  I have become more fluid in Adobe Illustrator, so these kinds of projects don’t take me nearly as long as my first design project.

We met as a group of librarians and started trying to identify learning outcomes across the EN-103 classes. This type of project needs to be developed in the summer and then implemented in the fall.  We still have yet to establish a plan for implementation.  Hopefully that occurs in the next week or two.

I utilized LibWizard, a new Springshare tool, for the first time this summer and developed a few quizzes with embedded tutorials.  Students and faculty have responded well to the interactive aspect of these tutorials.  I also implemented a new library space in Blackboard  utilizing the Springshare LTI. Embedded services and resources are more user-friendly, right?  Great interest in this application across campus as well.

Thus far, my entire experience as an academic librarian has been at break-neck speed.  The clear difference I see between my summer and school year schedules is in my priorities.  When students and faculty are on campus my priority is providing great service.  When the library is empty and my inbox isn’t raining e-mails I am able to focus on library improvements and developing new resources.  It’s an interesting and engaging cycle.