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CIST-605: Information Sources and Services: Research Guides

Getting Started with LibGuides

Tools for getting started in LibGuides

Less is more

Less is More

Usability tests from MIT show that students are confused by excessive content. So, tabs, text, lists, number of pages and boxes should be kept to a minimum. 

There's no magic number, but if you have more than 7 or 8 resources in a single content box you should think about how it can be divided into more than one box, subsection. 

Strive for usability, not comprehensiveness.


Don't use absolute directions/positions when referring to a specific box/column. Your guide is responsive and columns will shift around for different screen sizes. 

  • Bad: "See the box on the right for additional information."
  • Good: "Additional information can be found in the Resources box."

Break up Lengthy Explanations

Guides are more than lists. They are instructional tools, telling users not just where but how to do research, which often requires longer narrative or explanatory text. There is an inevitable tension between conflicting purposes: bulleted lists for quick findability, vs. sentences and paragraphs for explanation. Try to alternate modes: break up explanations with bullets, sub-headings, and other visual cues to group smaller, scannable "chunks" of information.

Describe Unclear Resources

Names of resources whose subject area is not clear, e.g. JSTOR, IEEEPAISMLACIAO should always have brief descriptions added to them to indicate the type of content.

Sort Lists of Resources

As students tend to use the first resources listed, it is generally preferable to list them in order of importance rather than alphabetically.

Think about other ways to arrange the sources. For example: in order by importance or value, as you see it; from broad to narrow in subject scope; by date coverage; etc.

It is also desirable to keep lists of resources short – maybe to the top five key resources featured prominently. Consider breaking long lists of resources into different boxes based on similar content type.

Database Descriptions

If you add a database using the LibGuides Add Resource feature, a description may be included - this can be set to display on your guide by you. Writing a description? Avoid describing the database asset using the default scope note from the vendor. Often this type of text is wordy and full of jargon. Aim for clear language with just a sentence or two so the reader can scan the description quickly.

Also consider how the database description will read when reused on other guides. Subject-specific acronyms and abbreviations may confuse readers who are unfamiliar with the subject. See the Database description page.