Becoming information literate is critically important in our world where information is a commodity and information overload is a daily occurrence. Who should I believe? How can I discern opinion from conjecture or evidence based reporting? Who can I trust? In small incremental steps, students develop the habits of mind needed to evaluate arguments, make decisions on authority, purposefully select what information they choose to accept into their world view, and be able to tell you why. Many types of assignments can provide students with information literacy skill development. For ideas beyond the traditional research paper, view this guide, Alternatives to Research Papers. For research intensive assignments, consider using the following strategies: Clearly Define and State the Assignment Objectives
Are students required to use certain library databases, resources, or materials? How many sources are required?
Preview the Assignment
Send a copy of your assignment, along with other relevant material such as the course syllabus, to your Subject Specialist ahead of time. They will check the assignment for feasibility and insure that the resources of the library are adequate for the assignment. If you are providing students with a list of sources to consult, we will verify the citations. Subject Specialists can suggest key resources for the assignment and recommend supplementary materials.
Establish Sequential Steps in the Research Process
Help the students understand the process of research. Have specific assignments due at brief intervals. Such requirements help to combat plagiarism. Consider the following four steps for assignments:
- Statement of Topic with questions to be explored (see sample below)
- A mind map or concept map illustrating development of thought process on implicated related components of the main topic
- A working or annotated bibliography formatted in the requested style: an initial list at possible sources found through the library’s catalog and/or databases
- An almost final bibliography of the sources
- A first draft
Sample Statement of Topic and Questions to Explore
My research topic is Operation Bootstrap, a post World War II plan set up by the Commonwealth government of Puerto Rico and the United States, to industrialize Puerto Rico. The industrialization of Puerto Rico failed to provide jobs to all Puerto Ricans on the island. The solution came in the form of thousands of factory jobs offered to Puerto Ricans in New York City. Thus, starting in the early 1950s a mass migration of Puerto Ricans streamed into New York City. I will find out through research what these early Puerto Rican migrants experienced in New York City.
Questions on Operation Bootstrap:
What was Operation Bootstrap? When did Operation Bootstrap occur? Who were the people involved?
Questions about the Puerto Rican migrants:
Where did they come from in Puerto Rico? How did they get to New York City? Where did they stay in NYC? Who went with them? Who stayed behind? Were there language barriers in NYC? How did they overcome barriers? What was the effect on their culture? How did they fit in? Were there any changes in culture? How were relationships created? Was there any prejudice? What were the effects on the family? Did social roles between men and women change?
Good Talking Points
Library Language : Familiarize students with common terminology used in libraries such as reference, reserve, citation, journal, periodical, indexes and abstracts. Introduce them to terms specific to academic research in the needed discipline or subject area.
Give Students Some Latitude : Allow students to choose their specific subject within a broad range of topics. For example, give students a list of 20 American short stories to pick to critique, rather than expect all student to evaluate the same short story. This guarantees that there will not be 25 students looking for the same materials in the library.
Encourage Critical Thinking and Evaluation of Information : Include the evaluation and analysis of information as part of the research process. Require students to use a variety of sources – primary and secondary, popular journals and scholarly journals – and to distinguish among them. Consider alternate formats and their implications: information in books versus information in journal articles; printed material relative to online, video, or audio formats.
Refer Students to Library Staff : Encourage students to make an appointment with a Subject Specialist to help them find the resources they need.
Online Expertise is Also Available:
- The Subject Specialists have created research guides for specific subject areas. Take advantage of their knowledge and expertise.