Comparison of peer-tutor and librarian feedback for the literature search component of a medical school research course

  • Suzanne Maranda Queen's University, Kingston, On.
  • Sandra Halliday Queen's University
  • Heather E. Murray Queen's University
  • Alexandra Cooper Queen's University


Introduction: The aim of this study is to compare the peer tutor and librarian feedback on second year medical students’ literature search skills as part of a research course at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Methods:  Student peer tutors and medical librarians each assessed a sample of literature searches for a culminating project. Two separate student cohorts were evaluated, and the marked rubrics were compared.

Students also participated in focus groups. An online survey was sent to a third cohort of students who did not work with peer tutors, but instead met with librarians one-on-one to discuss their literature searches.

Results: There was a measurable difference in the mark agreement between the peer tutors and the librarians. Unsurprisingly, librarians identified important errors and omissions unseen by the peer tutors. Peer tutors found the process of peer assessment very useful for their own learning and teaching skill development, however, the non-peer tutor students did not appreciate the value of this methodology. After peer tutoring was discontinued, the survey feedback was very positive about the value of the individual librarian consultations.

Discussion: Medical students conducting a research project need to perform thorough literature searches. Although librarians found the consultations time-consuming, they found that the consultations improved searches more than having students receive help from peer tutors in the same class. The surveyed students were positive about the librarian consultation.


Author keywords:  Medical students; critical enquiry; student research; Peer tutoring; Assessment; Program evaluation; Librarian consultations; Information literacy; Focus groups, Online survey.

Author Biographies

Suzanne Maranda, Queen's University, Kingston, On.
Head of the Bracken Health Sciences Library since 2005.
Sandra Halliday, Queen's University

Health Sciences Librarian

Bracken Health Sciences Library

Heather E. Murray, Queen's University

MD, FRCPC, Associate Professor and Deputy Head, Department of Emergency Medicine,

Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.

Alexandra Cooper, Queen's University

Data Services Coordinator, Queen’s University Library, Kingston, Ontario

How to Cite
Maranda, S., Halliday, S., Murray, H., & Cooper, A. (2019). Comparison of peer-tutor and librarian feedback for the literature search component of a medical school research course. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association / Journal De L’Association Des Bibliothèques De La Santé Du Canada, 40(1).
Research Articles