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Guidelines and Standards for Research Guides

Last reviewed August 2022.

Purpose of This Guide

NOVA Libraries has over 500 research guides, with well over 500,000 views each year.  They are an important part of our web presence and key to how students, faculty/staff and the community interact with NOVA Libraries and how librarians curate knowledge, share information and promote library resources.  It is important for us to maintain consistency, accuracy, and a sense of cohesion across our hundreds of guides.  At the same time, guides are instructional tools and creative activity directly related to librarians' instructional role.  We are mindful that VCCS Policy 3.5.6 "supports the concept of academic freedom"..."[i]n the development of knowledge, research endeavors, and creative activities" and that VCCS Policy 3.5.5 states "... faculty are expected to engage in and contribute toward the good of the college and its community.  This requires ... that they share their expertise, time, and talents with the larger college community." 

The guidelines and standards presented here balance our goal of consistency/cohesion with guide authors' academic freedom. These guidelines do not attempt to make all NOVA research guides look identical through proscriptive rules (except in the case of subject guides).  Instead, this is a resource to help guides authors create guides that align with the LibGuide content management system and follow technical and pedagogical design principles.  It includes guidance on LibGuides' purpose along with settings that optimize guide use.  This guide specifically excludes "How To" information that can easily be found from Springshare.

Types of Guides

One of the first steps in creating a new guide is selecting a guide type. See the chart below, then visit the corresponding pages in this guide for more on each type.

Primary Guide Types

  Purpose Example Permission?
Subject Covers broad subject areas, typically disciplines with their own course codes. Psychology

LWC designates subject guides based on programs/courses offered.  New subject guides are only allowed when a new program/course is added at NOVA.  Subject guides follow a template.

Course Customized for a course with an individual instructor or campus. PSY 211: Research Methods (Adrian-LO) No permission needed.  You may create course guides without LWC permission, but follow guidelines and standards.

Miscellaneous category for all public-facing guides that are not subject or course guides.  Examples:

- Topic with interest across disciplines

- Programing & promotional

- Website infrastructure

Fake News, Misinformation, and Media Bias

Hispanic Heritage Month at the Library

Video Tutorials

Yes, permission is needed.  Contact your LWC representative.  They will provide guidance or elevate your request to LWC.

Other Guide Types

Most users will not create these types of guides.

  Purpose Example Permission?

Not visible to public even when published.

Sharing information within NOVA libraries (e.g., professional development).

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (guide for librarians) No
Template Use only for one guide - Subject Guide Template.   LWC Only


This guide type is not used, because "topic" guides are included in [General] guide type.  This helps clear up confusion by eliminating an unnecessary differentiation in categories that otherwise behave identically.