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Information Literacy

First-Year Writing is designed to be students’ first point of contact with the university’s  Information Literacy (InfoLit) component (a general education requirement). Generally, our instructors introduce InfoLit with small tasks interspersed throughout the semester, emphasizing it as process-oriented instead of product-oriented. In small incremental steps, beginning with these FYW experiences, 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.

With the goal of creating lifelong learners, InfoLit can be taught and learned in all possible venues using myriad sources. The energetic involvement of students and ownership of their own learning is the key to success. In the past, text-based resources were accepted as the given source of scholarship. Today, the information world is more expansive, and scholarship occurs in virtual communities, in collaborative groups, and in online conversation and debates, while also still discovered through solo active reading. Therefore, information literacy in FYW and beyond increasingly encourages collaboration, creativity, and the use of digital tools and digital literacies.

Defining the Aims of Information Literacy

The University of Connecticut Libraries’ InfoLit program, based on the current draft of the Association of College & Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy, defines the term as follows: “Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”

The Framework for Information Literacy establishes six concepts, which consist of knowledge practices and dispositions that are designed to enable members of the University to:

  • Engage in scholarship as a conversation that occurs through deep reading and thoughtful consideration of discourse between and amongst individuals and groups over time.
  • Develop new insights and discoveries in response to divergent or competing perspectives and interpretations.
  • Search for information effectively and in a strategic manner that requires continual revision and refining.
  • Understand that research is an iterative process that depends upon asking increasingly complex questions whose answers develop new questions or lines of inquiry.
  • Be aware that underlying questions about the value of information and its potential use may be more significant than the physical packaging of the information.
  • Describe how authority is constructed and contextual.

What does this look like in a First-Year Writing classroom?

All FYW Instructors will schedule at least one session in a hands-on classroom for students to experience doing academic research and introducing students to the research databases available to them, keeping in mind the wide variety of fields of study the students will be moving into. The session should provide a general overview of the main sections of the Library website, indicating how to find and/or request materials in many disciplines, touching on terminology used and services (e.g., Interlibrary Loan) will be very helpful for most students. Remember, we are not creating librarians or English majors but opening doors for exploration.

We encourage all instructors to use the Homer Babbidge Library’s Undergraduate Research Classroom (Level 1) for these sessions. The URC includes a projection system and computers for all students. In addition, you should include elements of information literacy throughout the semester, because it is impossible to cover all the important aspects in a single session.

Instructions for how to schedule a classroom are located in the resources section of this workbook on page 177.

For new FYW instructors: How do I build InfoLit into my course?

Librarians will provide a training session on Information Literacy for all new and any interested FYW instructors early in the fall semester. This session will cover IL in more depth and provide examples of assignments and activities for in class and out of class engagement as well as suggest the best resources for use with first-year students.

The InfoLit team is available to help new instructors throughout the semester individually to analyze their syllabus for the best opportunities to introduce InfoLit concepts and provide in-depth collaboration on any assignment. Librarians can also come to your InfoLit session for support and to provide feedback as you develop your skills in this area. Contact the librarians at infolit@uconn.edu.

Can I have more than one session with my class in the library?

Yes! Please do. You can sign up for additional sessions at any point after the fourth week of classes (using the same room-reservation process).

What can or should I do in the hands-on session?

There are many different activities you can do in your hands-on sessions. The hands-on session is particularly useful for showing students where to find and how to do things. You can use the time looking at physical resources and assigning tasks (finding books, checking them out, using the scanners, etc.) as well as the retrieving computer-based resources and tasks (using databases, finding an article, emailing it, etc.). These preliminary activities lead to more challenging ones and pave the way for students ideally to work collaboratively on future projects in your course and beyond.

Does this mean I have to assign a research paper?

“Research paper” is such a loaded term, but in short, no. Students often interpret “research paper” as “report,” whereas our emphasis is on analysis and critical conversation. At least one graded assignment should require students to find and incorporate source(s) beyond the course texts, but it need not be a paper.

Which types of sources should I ask my students to locate and engage with?

While articles and web-based sources such as web sites, blogs, and wikis play a vital role in providing current information and perspectives, books are often better for getting the bigger picture and a deeper understanding of an event, concept, or idea.   

Help students understand that:

  • For background and in-depth information, books may be the best source
  • The information resource they need is determined by their research question: the most current information may not yet be in books
  • Identifying and retrieving books go hand-in-hand with subject headings and their respective call numbers
  • Photocopiers ($) and scanners (free) are available in the library
  • ebooks and physical books can be identified within databases, and some include the table of contents
  • Working with physical books may create some delays since libraries can’t always have everything all the time—this offers the opportunity of learning how to use Interlibrary Loan services and thinking about time management

What if I don’t understand how to do all this?

Don’t be afraid to ask your friendly librarian for help. No one expects you to know your way around UConn’s library system yet, so please ask librarians for help with anything (First-Year Writing–related or not). Librarians are available in person, via email or phone, and through online chat help (see the link to Ask a Librarian on the home page). The librarians are also happy to provide assistance with your own research.

More Resources

Libguide for FYW Instructors

On the Class Guides page <http://classguides.lib.uconn.edu>, click on First Year Writing to find “First Year Writing TAs & Adjuncts: This Guide’s for You!”, which links to useful videos on using databases, etc.—and also has information and videos on booking the Undergraduate Research Classroom. Although Libguides are usually created by librarians, you can be set up with an account and create your own—just let us know!

ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education

<http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework>

Head, Alison J. Learning the Ropes: How Freshmen Conduct Course Research Once They Enter College. Project Information Literacy. 2013. Web. 24 June 2014. PROJECT INFORMATION LITERACY RESEARCH REPORT : THE PASSAGE STUDIES

<http://projectinfolit.org/images/pdfs/pil_2013_freshmenstudy_fullreport.pdf>

The Freshman Study

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWNGZUa952A>