Ideas and Strategies for Incorporating Information Literacy into the Classroom
Following are examples of assignments that will strengthen students' information literacy skills. These are effective alternatives to the traditional research paper.
Information Literacy Assignment Ideas
Do students in a course know how to identify, locate, evaluate, and use information effectively? These assignments will strengthen students' information literacy skills. Librarians can work with instructors to customize assignments for a course or can teach a class in this area.
- If students need to find overview information on a topic: Use a print and a Web-based encyclopedia, either general or subject-specific, to gather background information on a topic (e.g., the print and licensed electronic versions of Encyclopaedia Britannica and the freely available, Web-only Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Compare and contrast the information found in each.
- If students need to define terms related to a particular topic or discipline: Use a print subject-specific dictionary (e.g., The Facts On File Dictionary of Environmental Science) and an electronic dictionary (e.g., EPA Terms of Environment) to define terms related to a research topic or project. Note discrepancies between the two dictionary definitions.
- If students are doing assignments related to famous or important individuals: Compare and contrast a biography in a print biographical reference source (e.g., Current Biography) with a Web-based biography or another print biography. Base the comparison on the expertise and bias of the biographer, the sponsoring organization or group, recency, and completeness. Note any disagreement on facts.
- If students need to examine and analyze published materials: Use a print and an online index to book reviews to identify two book reviews of a non-fiction book on the topic. (e.g., Book Review Digest in print; MLA International Bibliography or Academic Search Complete online, search for reviews by entering some of the book title words and the word review). Incorporate an analysis of these reviews into the analysis of the book itself.
- If students need to do historical research of any kind: Identify and locate two useful journal articles on the topic, using America: History and Life or Historical Abstracts. Compare these articles to two Web sites on the same topic.
- If students need to do research into current events: Identify and locate two useful, up-to-date articles on personalities or issues by using Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe's General News database. Compare these articles to two Web sites on the same topic.
- If students need to write opinion pieces: Identify and locate two opinion pieces on the topic by using Alternative Press Index in print or Alt-PressWatch and Academic Search Complete online. Critique the opinion pieces in a position paper on the topic.
Additional Alternatives to the Traditional Research Paper
- Term Paper Alternatives (University of California, Berkeley)
- Assignments to Promote Information Competency (Palomar College)
- Ideas for Library/Information Assignments (Queen Elizabeth II Library)
Research and Web Site Evaluation Skills
- Flow of Information: Have students review this Web site and write a brief essay describing where they should search for information on a topic and why.
- How to Narrow or Broaden Your Topic: Have students review this page, then use the Research Topic Focusing Worksheet to come up with two research paper topics.
- Hoax? Scholarly Research? Personal Opinion? You Decide!: Have students select a Web site evaluation criterium from among those listed, and in a brief essay, evaluate two sites listed for that criterium.
For any of these, instructors may also want to consider asking students to turn in an annotated bibliography cited in the discipline's style, along with copies of web pages they used.