Practical Ideas for Student Training Peer Research Assistants


The Peer Research Assistant (PRA) program at the Michigan State University Libraries began as a pilot project in Fall 2013. It gives undergraduate student PRAs the opportunity to provide basic reference assistance to their peers in four residence halls across campus. The target audience is other undergraduates, mostly first-year students who are required to live in the residence halls and who are doing college-level research for the first time. You can learn more about MSU's Neighborhood system here.

This virtual handout accompanies the poster presentation given by Emilia Marcyk at IFLA WLIC 2016, and outlines some of the training tools used by the program

Online Training and Job Aids

Job Aid

  • Common Reference Questions Chart - This chart outlines the steps that PRAs should take to answer common reference questions. Students can use it as a quick reference while assisting patrons, or developing their skills (created using Pikochart)

Online Training

  • Reference Interview Game - a choose your own adventure game which introduces PRAs to the theory behind the reference interview (created using Twine)

  • Brainstorming Search Terms - an interactive module about choosing keywords and creating a search strategy (created using Adobe Captivate)

  • Do You Have Enough Information? - a choose your own adventure game which asks the PRAs to consider whether they have enough information from the virtual patron (created using Twine)

In Development

In Fall 2016, Emilia will pilot a three-part module about working with students on common research "pitfalls" or problems. The module will incorporate videos created at other libraries with a Google Forms quiz to help PRAs refine their problem-solving skills. Check out the draft versions of the module here:

Tools for Creating Online Training

Want to make your own modules? Here are the tools I've used to create the tutorials above:

Free Tools

Subscription Tools


Creative Commons License.
These resources are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.