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Integrating Information Literacy Into Your Courses

Don't reinvent the wheel!

There are lots of assignments and grading rubrics out there that target information literacy. You can use these as a starting point when writing or updating your own assignments.


Sources of Sample Assignments

Keep in mind...

When you're writing your assignments:

  • If you require "scholarly" sources, explain what that means
    Does it mean peer-reviewed articles? How about books--are books scholarly? All of them, or only books from certain publishers? Can a website ever be scholarly? (Scholars use US Census data all the time...)
  • If you say "no websites," make sure your students understand the difference between a website and an article from a library database.
    Telling the difference between content formats online is a skill, and it's not one that every student has been exposed to before. 
  • If you say "Don't use reference sources, including Wikipedia," explain what you mean.
    Do you really mean you don't want your students to get that broad background information that will help them understand other sources? Or do you mean they need to make sure their research moves beyond that level of information, and that they must find, use, and cite more appropriate sources in their final product?
  • Remember that "primary source" means something different in different disciplines
    To a chemist, a primary source is the journal article where a researcher published their research. To a historian, a primary source could be a 300-year-old diary. Make sure your students know what kind of primary sources you're talking about in your course, especially if they're majoring in something else. 
  • It's worth clarifying the relationship between journals, articles, and library databases.
    No one knows that until they've been taught--and many students have never been taught (much less seen an actual print journal). 
  • Consider whether the resources students cite are actually useful and relevant
    Finding useful and relevant sources can be hard, so make sure you give credit for that work! It's much easier for students just to do some quick Googling and cherry pick quotes out of whatever results they get back. That's not information literacy, though. Take a look at the Rubric for evaluating students' sources above for ideas about how you can assess this.
  • Encourage students to ask for help, and explain who to ask different questions to.
    Many students have unrealistic assumptions that they shouldn't ever have to ask for help. If they do ask for help, they may not understand that different questions are best addressed to different people. Explaining this in the assignment can save everyone stress. Librarians would LOVE for students to bring us more research questions!

More tips for crafting information literacy assignments

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