By Corinne Neustadter
Last semester, the Colorado State University Libraries launched a Peer Research Mentors program to help students discover the breadth of databases and scholarly sources available to them.
As a collaboration between the CSU Libraries and the English Department’s Writing Center, the program offers drop-in research help to all students, regardless of major, who might have questions about finding peer-reviewed sources or navigating the Libraries’ vast array of digital resources.
Samantha Greff (B.A. ‘23) works as the Libraries’ inaugural Peer Research Mentor and helps students think critically about information, find scholarly sources, and identify reputable sources to empower students to integrate different research into their work.
As a communications studies major passionate about information technology and visual design, being a Peer Research Mentor has been a great opportunity for Greff to support students and work alongside staff members to improve library resources. Greff aspires to work in library science, so her position is an important step toward that future.
“My primary purpose as a Peer Research Mentor is to help students find the information they’re looking for. I really love how flexible it’s been and how easy it is to interact with students,” Greff said. “I’d say that one of the biggest factors to be successful with research is knowing what you’re looking for, and students are very successful with that aspect of the research process. So, when they come for help from the peer research mentor program, they just need help getting the rest of the way there which we can accomplish with more targeted strategies.”
Greff works at the Writing Center and the Libraries on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help address students’ research concerns. In her position, she has helped students with a variety of subjects – ranging from composition essays to math projects.
“My position involves being available for students when they’re struggling with finding resources for research because they don’t know where to go – the (CSU) Libraries has over 350 databases!” Greff said. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned about student research is that every person has their own way of thinking through problems, but we all get stuck or lost at times, so when you do encounter those challenges, there are more resources than you think.
“Odds are that other students have struggled with some of the same things before, and there are so many guides on our website and members of our staff at the CSU library that are there to help guide you through those problems.”
She assists many first-year students navigate their first research papers, which are often students’ first exposures to writing college-level academic papers.
“Students mainly have trouble using advanced search options, sticking to original Primo search on the library website – things students start with (for research) then get stuck,” Greff said. “A common problem is students not using the permalink option when they find articles, and then they can’t find articles again. I help them learn how to expand searching options to find better resources, and make sure that they can go back to them later.”
As a student herself, Greff provides a valuable perspective into what library services are working well and which ones can be improved to better help students.
She recently started collaborating with the Writing Center to promote the Libraries’ research resources. Many students who use the center also have questions about research, and Greff’s expertise has helped the center serve as a “one-stop shop” for students to revise their writing and find resources.
“I’ve learned a lot more about resources that the library has,” Greff said. “If someone has a question that I don’t know, we get to discover the answer together.”