Guidelines for Students

The reflective essay carries the most weight in the judging for the Undergraduate Library Research Award, followed by the bibliography. These are the components that form the self-reflective articulation of the research process and the utilization of library resources that form the basis of the award. The points below are designed to guide you in focusing on important elements in the reflective essay and the bibliography.

Score Card

Research Component      Point Value
Reflective Essay      20
Bibliography      15
Supporting Letter      5
Completed Project      10
Total Possible:      50

Reflective Essay

A critical piece of your application is a 500-700 word reflective essay describing your research strategies, and use of library tools and resources. The essay is one of the most important parts of your application!

Research is a process you will repeat throughout your life – for work, for consumer decisions, and for social and citizenship responsibilities. The Award review panel is interested in your ability to perform university-level research and suggests that you reflect consciously on the process by which you select and acquire the information that goes into the development of a project, the solution of a problem, or the making of a personal decision. You will need to communicate the specifics about the growth in your understanding and use of information tools and resources in the discipline appropriate to your project. As you develop your essay, consider the following questions and suggestions: (You do not need to systematically answer each question, but use them as a guide to developing your essay)

Developing a research topic:

How did you think about and refine your preliminary research topic? Did the library help to incubate your ideas? Reflect upon the process of adapting your interests to the scope of the project, the time you had available for research and writing, the required length of the project, and the nature of the information you found. How did you modify your original thesis as a result of what you discovered during your research?

Research strategies:

What specific strategies did you develop for finding and using relevant information? What discoveries did you make by chance and which through planned search strategies? How did these events impact each other? Highlight for the jury the strong points of your use of your sources in supporting your thesis or argument. How much of your research was done independently? Did you seek and/or receive guidance from others in how to locate or best utilize the resources available to you? Describe your search strategies, both the successes and the problematic searches. Tell us what you know and have learned about the process of doing research and why you made the choices you did.

Library research resources:

What specifically did you discover about tools and techniques for research? Tell us which research tools you used (research databases, library catalogs, websites, bibliographies, etc.), but in an evaluative way -- not just a list of things you tried. Is there a particular tool that you felt was invaluable to your research during the creation of this project?

Finding and evaluating information:

What did you learn about finding and evaluating information on your topic or in your discipline? What criteria did you use to evaluate your sources? Did you have trouble finding some kinds of information? Describe your decision-making process for solving this challenge. What were some of your reasons for not selecting specific sources, even though they appeared promising? Were you able to recognize bias or contraditions in information sources? How did you balance these viewpoints with your own? Tell us how you reconciled differing viewpoints through the course of your research process and how it influenced your choice of resources.

Finally, take a look at the evaluation rubric by which submissions are judged.

Prize-winning Reflective Essay examples:


When preparing your bibliography keep in mind these points:

  • Format your bibliography using a style guide appropriate to your project's discipline. See Citation Styles for guidance using APA, Chicago and MLA style guides.
  • Cite all sources you used, even if you did not directly quote from them.
  • For long bibliographies, subdividing your sources into categories may be helpful, although an alphabetical list is also acceptable.
  • To help the judges understand your unique set of resources, you may include an explanatory note identifying specific characteristics of these sources that were important in your selection and use for your project.

Prize-winning Bibliography examples:

Supporting Letter

  • Instructor must compose and send a letter of nomination for the student and his/her paper or project to
  • The nominating faculty member must have been the instructor of record in the course for which the research project was completed.
  • Ask your instructor to read
  • Information for Faculty Nominators
  • Send your instructor a copy of your research project to re-read. If possible send a draft of your Reflective Essay. This will help him/her to write a better letter of support.
  • Send your instructor a reminder email or phone call a few days before the deadline.

Final Version of Completed Project

Projects in all media are encouraged!

  • Written Reports should be double-spaced; there are no other formatting requirements. There is no minimum or maximum length.
  • Digital projects may be in any common digital format. If the file is too large, upload it onto a cloud-based storage system and provide a publicly accessible URL on the application form.

Prize-winning Project examples:

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