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LibApps Directions for Staff

Making the most of Oakton Library's LibGuides & LibAnswers platforms

Designing a Topic Guide

A topic guide should help students understand a research topic and  might include:

  • History of the issue
  • Different disciplinary perspectives
  • Statistics that help with understanding
  • How the topic is discussed in the news
  • How the topic is portrayed in art (film, fiction, poetry, drama etc.)
  • Seminal works on the topic and which are available at our library.

Important Points

  • ORGANIZATION: The above do not need to be separate tabs.
  • LESS IS MORE: The guide should aim for minimalism; don't overwhelm
  • DIG DEEPER: The guide should provide info AND link to resources, not just one of these. Think of a Topic guide as more of an annotated bibliography than a list of where to search. In this sense, a Topic guide is a much bigger project than other guides because it requires the guide author to do a great deal of research on a topic in order to understand what should be included.
  • In general, profile boxes are not necessary

Design Recommendations -- TOPIC Guides

Some pages you might include are below.

  • Some pages might be combined where it makes sense ie., Background Info & Statistics, Websites & Media.

*ALL links MUST have a description.*


  • Include database asset links 
  • "what is background info" box
  • Could include an embedded Credo article or similar
  • Could add print or e-reference books
  • Information about citing from background databases or books

Avoid: generic videos about careers, clever cartoons etc. Remember students are using this as a resource to do research.


  • Limit books to four or fewer. Rotate these periodically -- at least once per semester.
  • Consider catalog tutorials in print or video.
  • Add a link to the catalog.
  • Information about citing books


  • Limit database links to six or fewer. Be sure they include descriptions.
  • Group databases by general and subject-specific.
  • Consider adding a gallery box with relevant magazines or journals. These should include images and links to the resource in our database.
  • Consider resources about types of articles, peer-review, journalism etc.
  • Information about citing database articles


  • Include links to streaming databases/search bar for streaming databases
  • Curated podcast series or podcast episodes, youtube videos, freely available documentary films, graphics or tutorials
  • Information about citing podcasts, online videos and documentaries

Local Resources:

  • Any locally available archives, museums, galleries, recurring events, libraries etc. (NOT necessary for every subject!) Again, use icons with alt-tags to make it easier to visually navigate.
  • Information about citing museums and events

Professional or Career Resources

  • LearningExpress PrepStep database link w/description
  • " PrepStep tutorials (video or print)
  • Books on test prep for licensing or programs
  • Relevant Prof. Associations (with descriptions) (limit to 4 or fewer)


  • Links to relevant databases
  • Tutorials for using relevant databases
  • Links to census (with description) and tutorials of same.
  • Resources for understanding statistics.
  • Information about citing statistics


  • Limit and organize links by type
  • Include graphics like organizational logos
  • Tutorials or resources for evaluating web resources
  • Information about citing websites


  • Carefully curate a citation page IF you did not include citation info on each of the tabbed pages
  • Include only the information for they style used in that discipline
  • Do not simply link the tab to our large citation page; there is too much information there.

More Help

  • Place get help box prominently on this page
  • Place profile box on this page

Links to exemplary topic guides