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USC Libraries Research Award

This LibGuide provides information about the USC Libraries Research Award. It includes submission guidelines, requirements, previous award winners and jury members, as well as additional information about primary source materials at USC.

What is the USC Libraries Research Award?

The annual USC Libraries Research Award recognizes excellence and creativity in the use of USC Libraries’ research collections and services. Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to submit papers or projects they have completed at USC in a for-credit class or through independent study during the spring, summer, or fall semesters of 2023. In addition to their papers, a Reflective Essay of 500-1000 words is required. For details, see the descriptions for each award level.

A panel of faculty and community experts will judge the submissions and select the winners that will be announced at the award reception. Graduate winners receive up to $500; undergraduate winners receive up to $300. Other awards are available. Selected winners will be invited to serve on the jury for the following year.

Contact Ariana Varela at

Support for the awards is generously provided by:

The USC Libraries Research Award started in 2013 with the generous support of a USC Libraries Dean's Challenge Grant.

Submission Guidelines

To be eligible for consideration submissions must take the form of an analytical or creative essay or a research paper. The work must have been completed while the author was a student at USC during the 2023 calendar year and in connection with for-credit coursework or independent study at USC. Deadline for submission is January 26, 2024, at 5PM (PST).


The work can be in any field of study, but must have made use of library services and research resources including, but not limited to:

  • printed resources

  • databases

  • primary sources

  • materials in all media, held in and provided by USC Libraries

  • research consultations or reference help

  • library instruction

  • Interlibrary loan

The Reflective Essay must address the following:

  • how you became a better researcher by using the resources and/or services of the USC Libraries
  • how you gained a deeper understanding of finding and evaluating resources through the use of USC Libraries’ resources and/or services
  • how consultation or interaction with library faculty and/or staff made an impact on your research


The work can be in any field of study but must use primary sources in collections held in or provided by the USC Libraries. We understand that the definition of primary sources can differ between disciplines. Therefore, the jury follows the discipline-specific definition for primary sources and consults with specialists from the respective discipline if in doubt about eligibility for submission. Examples for primary sources include, but are not limited to historical newspapers, data, archival materials, photographs, video, experimental studies, and digital primary sources.

For more information:

The Reflective Essay must discuss how:

  • primary sources in particular informed your research
  •  using primary sources and/or library services contributed to refining your cognitive, investigative, deductive reasoning, and problem-solving skills
  • using primary sources and/or library services helped you to gain a deeper knowledge of the variety of formats in which information is presented
  • how interactions with library faculty and/or staff as well as physical collections impacted your research



All submissions are judged using the following criteria:

Extent & effectiveness of the use of library resources and services 0-5 points
Quality of writing & documentation 0-5 points
Quality of analysis & interpretation 0-5 points
Quality of research 0-5 points
Proper citations 0-5 points
Reflective Essay (see different criteria for Undergraduate and Graduate Awards) 0-5 points

The Reflective Essay is an important part of your submission. It is a way for you to talk about the discovery and choice of resources, your research process overall, as well as how library resources, services, and interactions with library faculty and/or staff impacted your research. Submissions must be submitted electronically by 5 p.m. (PST) on January 26, 2024, using the submission form.

Please find the detailed rubric by which submissions will be judged here.

The rubric was inspired by and partially based on the following work: Wilson Dental Library Dr. Clifton & Lois Dummett Research Award and CET's Academic Essay Rubric