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Dartmouth College Library
Dartmouth College Library Research Guides

Research Guides Best Practices

standards and best practices for research guide authors

SpringShare Resources

Best Practices Guidelines

The Basics

  1. Include your profile photo & information on the Guide's homepage.
  2. Provide a link to your Library's reference desk or the Ask Us service.
    If your Library does not have a reference desk, consider other contact options for times when you're not available.
  3. Make use of standard content like Citing Sources as appropriate.
    See the "Standard Content Boxes" tab. Consider contributing content that others might find useful. Remember that directly linking to a standard content box allows it to be updated automatically.

Resource Linking

  1. Put lists of resources in Link box types rather than Rich Text or plain Text boxes.
    Link boxes allow the Link Checker to work. You can also monitor link use statistics.
    If you must use Rich Text linking, use Google Analytics to track link usage.
  2. Link directly to databases - not to Library Catalog records.
    Catalog records do not provide stable URLs for resources.
    SpringShare's Link Checker cannot identify library catalog links that are no longer pointing to the resource.
    Exceptions: Linking to a book or a journal (especially if it is available online from multiple sources)
  3. Use Resource Icons when appropriate.
    Currently there are resource icons for print books, screencasts, DVDs, and podcasts.
  4. Make links to resources open in a new page.
    This is the system default for Web Links. If you are using rich text formatting, you will need to specify if the link is to open in a new page.
  5. Use widgets sparingly.
    Presently, Google Analytics can only track Summon search widgets. You may be able to infer usage indirectly from your page use statistics. Test your widgets regularly to make sure they still work, as the link checker doesn't include search widgets.

Content Presentation

  1. Break up long (more than five) lists of resources if possible.
    Ideally, Research Guides should be more than lists of resources -- they should be true guides to how to do research on the topic, not just enumerations of what resources are available. Minimize the amount of space where your user has to scroll to find key information.
  2. Break up long blocks of text with bullets or numbers.
  3. Use the upper left area if the page for introductory or directional/navigation information (Guide Index)
    This is the first place people's eyes go on the page and is a valuable piece of real estate. For example, note the Guide Index on this page that mirrors the tabs.
  4. Limit the proliferation of tabs.
    If you have more than one row of tabs, consider breaking it up into more guides or, as a last resort, use sub-tabs
  5. Sub-tabs should have a table of contents page as the main page.
    Unique data on the first page in a series of sub-tabs often ends up being hidden from the user. For example, see the Standard Content Boxes page in this guide.
  6. Make judicious use of images & include "ALT" descriptors 
    ALT descriptors are important for patrons using screen readers.

Guide Maintenance

  1. Use the Link Checker to identfy broken links.
  2. View the statistical reports of the main page for your major guides once a term.
    This can help you identify low-use resources on the main page. Use Google Analytics to track link usage for links on rich text formatted pages.