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Teaching Information Literacy: Research

A guide to assist instructors in incorporating information literacy concepts and assignments into their teaching

Research as Inquiry

"Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field." (From: ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education)

(Image from: https://pixabay.com/en/concept-man-papers-person-plan-1868728/)

Learner Goals

  • consider research as open-ended exploration and engagement with information;
  • appreciate that a question may appear to be simple but still disruptive and important to research;
  • value intellectual curiosity in developing questions and learning new investigative methods;
  • maintain an open mind and a critical stance;
  • value persistence, adaptability, and flexibility and recognize that ambiguity can benefit the research process;
  • seek multiple perspectives during information gathering and assessment;
  • seek appropriate help when needed;
  • follow ethical and legal guidelines in gathering and using information;
  • demonstrate intellectual humility (i.e., recognize their own intellectual or experiential limitations).

(From: ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education)

Learner Practices

  • formulate questions for research based on information gaps or on reexamination of existing, possibly conflicting, information;
  • determine an appropriate scope of investigation;
  • deal with complex research by breaking complex questions into simple ones, limiting the scope of investigations;
  • use various research methods, based on need, circumstance, and type of inquiry;
  • monitor gathered information and assess for gaps or weaknesses;
  • organize information in meaningful ways;
  • synthesize ideas gathered from multiple sources;
  • draw reasonable conclusions based on the analysis and interpretation of information.

(From: ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education)

Example Lessons, Assignments, and Activities

This activity from Lane Wilkinson proceeds via Socratic questioning. The goal is to have students explain the common stumbling blocks they encounter as they look for information and as they write papers (if they have). The role of the instructor is to facilitate the discussion by providing a contextual framework for student experiences. By showing students that their research process follows a common pattern, they can make better choices about how, when, and where to look for information (e.g., not jumping straight to peer-reviewed articles when they can barely define their topic)

This lesson plan from Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts, edited by Patricia Bravender, Hazel McClure, and Gayle Schaub and contributed by Robert Farrell, provides students with a practical analogy for scholarly inquiry using an example they are all familiar with, crime scene investigation.

The lesson from Joelle Pitts helps students learn how to determine the scope of their investigations by creating an appropriate research question. This lesson introduces the first step in a research process and criteria used to refine a topic into an appropriate research question.

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