University of Arkansas: Preparing engineering students for the future: How to effectively search and solve problems

For library staff, faculty members and students of the University of Arkansas, Knovel is a reliable, quality resource that supports preparation for future engineering and research careers.

As an Engineering and Mathematics Librarian and associate professor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Patricia Kirkwood has the job of introducing students to the quality resources they need to support their course of study and future research. One way Kirkwood accomplishes this is by teaching students to use Knovel.

Interview with Patricia Kirkwood, University of Arkansas – Knovel | Elsevier


Faculty in the freshman program needed to expose students to finding and using good resources — beyond the typical web searches they were used to. The first attempt was to have students write a paper and cite good sources. But that was too complicated and too much work for a one-credit course — for the students, faculty and librarian. So they needed to assign a different task that still involved a reasonable amount of work, showed students that good resources are easy to find, and was relatively easy to evaluate and grade.


The Engineering Academic Challenge turned out to be the perfect option. The Challenge compels students to structure technical searches using Knovel in order to solve a set of three randomized problems from various engineering disciplines. The hands-on experience builds problem-solving skills and even gives students a chance to win prizes. Kirkwood not only convinced the faculty to try it, it’s now a required part of the program — and counts for three percent of the students’ grade. Says Kirkwood, The only way to get [Knovel] used is to require the students to use it in a meaningful way so they get familiar with it. Then they’re likely to use it when they need it later on for lab work or research.

quote, University of Arkansas - Knovel | Elsevier

Unlike web search engines, Knovel always finds information from reliable technical resources…you don’t have to pore through…questionable options.

Patricia Kirkwood, University of Arkansas


The results have been tremendous. Year after year, students from the University of Arkansas have been top players and formidable competitors in the Challenge. But even more importantly, Kirkwood’s strategy for requiring freshmen engineering students to participate has helped them develop critical research skills necessary not just to complete their academic careers but to find answers to the real world problems they’ll face in their future careers. Use of resources is directly related to early exposure , she says. With Knovel, students can find results to technical questions they can trust and cite.

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