Spotlight on Services: REL Reference Desk

Do you wish you had easy access to a reference desk librarian who could answer your research questions about education policies, programs, and practices? You do! Our Ask REL Southwest service provides this support to education stakeholders at no charge.

Ask REL Southwest is part of a collaborative Ask A REL reference desk service offered through the 10 regional educational laboratories (RELs) located across the country. This service functions in much the same way as a reference library, providing citations, brief responses, and referrals in response to research-based education questions.

When someone submits a question, researchers conduct a search of databases and websites maintained by federally funded organizations, research institutions, and education agencies, as well as online search engines. Researchers then compile a list of relevant peer-reviewed research, which may include policy reports, literature reviews, and publications. Resources are selected on the basis of factors such as date of publication, publisher and funder, and the methodology used to develop the research. When appropriate, the response may also include referrals to other federally funded organizations that may be able to offer assistance. This response is sent to the requestor by email.

How to submit a question

Do you have a research-based education question you'd like to submit? Here’s what to expect:

  1. If you reside in Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Oklahoma, or Texas, submit your question through our Ask REL Southwest web form or during an alliance meeting or bridge event.

    If you live outside of our region, please visit the Ask A REL page on the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Program website. Select your region to submit your question.
  2. Researchers will determine whether your question fits within the scope of the Ask A REL service. A researcher may contact you for any needed clarification about your question.
  3. Our reference desk team will conduct a search of common databases and websites and compile a list of relevant resources and referrals. Responses may include electronic copies of federally funded publications or reports, bibliographies and brief descriptions of education research reports and articles, referrals to research projects sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), and information about relevant websites and federally funded education organizations.
  4. The response to your research question is drafted and sent to you via email.

Responses are shared widely and posted on the REL Southwest website to make them readily available to the public.

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