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Teaching Information Literacy: Searching

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

Searching as Strategic Exploration

"Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops." (From: ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education)

(Image from: https://pixabay.com/en/explore-word-letters-boggle-game-1945678/)

Learner Goals

  • exhibit mental flexibility and creativity
  • understand that first attempts at searching do not always produce adequate results
  • realize that information sources vary greatly in content and format and have varying relevance and value, depending on the needs and nature of the search
  • seek guidance from experts, such as librarians, researchers, and professionals
  • recognize the value of browsing and other serendipitous methods of information gathering
  • persist in the face of search challenges, and know when they have enough information to complete the information task

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

Learner Practices

  • determine the initial scope of the task required to meet their information needs;
  • identify interested parties, such as scholars, organizations, governments, and industries, who might produce information about a topic and then determine how to access that information;
  • utilize divergent (e.g., brainstorming) and convergent (e.g., selecting the best source) thinking when searching;
  • match information needs and search strategies to appropriate search tools;
  • design and refine needs and search strategies as necessary, based on search results;
  • understand how information systems (i.e., collections of recorded information) are organized in order to access relevant information;
  • use different types of searching language (e.g., controlled vocabulary, keywords, natural language) appropriately;
  • manage searching processes and results effectively.

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

Example Lessons, Assignments, and Activities

An activity developed by Lucinda Rush to teach students how to construct database searches using Boolean operators.

Carolyn Caffrey Gardner's group activity can be used in a variety of disciplines and contexts. Pass the Problem aims to have students provide feedback to other students on database and keyword selection. By having students critique each other, it works to build critical self-reflection during the research process.

This lesson plan from Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts, edited by Patricia Bravender, Hazel McClure, and Gayle Schaub and contributed by Ika Datig, addresses the search strategies and discovery tools students need to employ to recognize the possible reasons for setbacks and continue their research.

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