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Guides best practices: Write learning outcomes and create an outline

After using this guide, Stanford Libraries staff will be able to build, assess, and maintain research guides that address specific information needs.

Write learning outcomes

We recommend writing a few learning outcomes to steer your guide. A learning outcome states what a participant will be able to do after instruction. A learning outcome should contain:


Who are the learners?
Try to be specific.



What will they be able to do after the instruction?
Use a verb that can be observed so that later on you can assess whether the guide was successful.


Under what circumstances will the learning occur?
This one is easy. The condition will always be "after they use your guide".


How well will the learners execute the behavior?
Will they remember a fact or solve new problems? Reference Bloom's Taxonomy for an explanation on degrees of learning.


For example, a learning outcome for this guide is that - After using this guide (condition), Stanford Libraries staff (audience) will write (behavior) one to three learning outcomes for each guide they create (degree).


Create an outline

Once you write a handful of learning outcomes (1 to 3), you can start to divide up the material into "chunks". These will become the pages on your guide.


Check markDO chunk your guide around the user goals or process.
Try chunking around the learning objectives you wrote. Alternatively, organize your guide around the user's likely process through the learning objective.


Check mark

DO create small, digestible chunks.
The capacity for working memory is finite. Learning cannot take place if a user is overwhelmed if too much information is presented to them at one time.


Check markDO get rid of the welcome page. 
Users decide whether or not a page will answer their information need within seconds. Instead of a welcome page that a user will likely skim, try answering their first question. 


X markDON'T chunk your guide around source format.
It's common to see a "Databases" page or a "Books" page on a guide. When a user has a question though, they are not necessarily considering the format the answer will come packaged in. Someone might want basic facts about George Washington. They probably need a reference book, but we do not expect them to ask or think about their question this way.