About This Guide

Information literacy (IL) is often assumed to focus solely on research skills, but it comprises so much more than that. Information literacy involves examining the sociocultural production of information and knowledge, and encouraging students to approach all information production and consumption in a critical manner.

This guide is designed to serve as an introduction to incorporating information literacy (IL) into your courses through small changes that can create meaningful learning and impact. We fully acknowledge that all instructors, regardless of their discipline, already incorporate elements of “information literacy” into their teaching, albeit in different ways and using different terminology. Our goal, then, is to provide some additional guidance that can help students bridge the gap between what they know and what they need to know for your course or program.

Research Strategies

Information Needs

Learning from Sources

Activity Ideas

What We Have Learned about PLU Students

In our assessment of library instruction sessions, responses from PLU students have consistently demonstrated the following:

  • Students are task-oriented when the assignment requires “finding sources.”
  • Students remain unsure of their research and assignment tasks.
  • Students worry about finding sources that were “right” or that would “count” for their assignment.
  • Once students “find” sources, they aren’t always sure what to do with them.

What Others Have Learned about Students

Project Information Literacy has surveyed almost 21,000 students from community, public, and private colleges and universities in the US. Their findings show clear patterns in how students engage with information:

  • Eighty percent of students reported having overwhelming difficulties with getting started on research assignments and determining the nature and scope of what their instructors required of them.
  • Two-thirds of college students felt that defining a topic is a difficult task.
  • Most students use risk-averse research strategies and rely on a “tried and true” approach, often relying on techniques learned in high school.
  • Students rarely seek assistance from librarians and are more likely to seek advice from friends or family members.
  • Recent graduates indicated they were not adequately prepared for solving information problems in the workplace (and several large surveys of employers mirror this finding).

How to Use This Guide

The resources in this guide are intended to serve as supplements to the existing goals and learning activities in your courses. These resources, activities, and examples were not designed as additional work to assign to students, or additional lessons to incorporate into your current course plan. Instead, this guide contains “small changes” and related activities that can be incorporated into a course plan to build on the work your students are already doing, without demanding “extra” work from you or your students. Many of these activities can be used as low stakes, formative assessments. We drew inspiration from Lang’s Small Teaching philosophy in order to create learning moments that can transform and reshape how students learn and how instructors engage with IL concepts.

While our aim was to primarily provide support to writing-intensive courses, such as WRIT 101, FYEP 190, and Capstones, these resources will also be useful when applied to any research-based assignments, as well as courses that focus on critical analysis or inquiry. Before you dive deeper into this guide to determine whether or not any of these tips and activities will work for your course, we want you to ask yourself the following question:

Do I have time to assign and teach a research project or assignment this semester?

If your answer is yes, we hope that the activities and the ideas that we have compiled can help you think about the research process differently, and that you are able to spend more time with your students talking about how research is more than just the things they find. However, if you feel like there is no time to assign a research project this semester, we hope that the deconstructed approach to the research process presented here, as well as our suggestions for research paper alternatives, can align with the work that you are already doing in your courses and provide some additional perspective on critical inquiry and student learning.

Our Philosophy

We are fully aware that this guide will only be as helpful as the time and energy that you are able and willing to devote to it. Because of this, our goal was not to develop a comprehensive course and lesson guide but an overview for instructors who require flexible and adaptable teaching materials. If you feel that an activity is useful, but you don’t have enough time to devote to it, then only use what will be most helpful for you and your students. The content in this guide targets the Zone of Proximal Development and aims to provide that extra step to help students get to where they need to be for your course.

For questions about how best to incorporate the ideas in this guide into one of your lessons or courses, don’t hesitate to contact Roberto Arteaga (rarteaga@plu.edu).

Creative Commons License
This guide was developed by Roberto A. Arteaga and Christine M. Moeller and is licensed, unless otherwise noted, under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Last modified: May 1, 2023