UMUC Information Literacy FAQ for Faculty


What are the skills necessary to achieve information literacy?

"Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their own learning." (ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education)

The skills needed to be information literate include:

  • using information and library resources both within the library and through
    electronic means effectively and efficiently
  • selecting the best resource to use to meet an information need, not just those that are most convenient or familiar
  • applying critical evaluation and synthesis of selected sources
  • citing sources appropriately and accurately

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What are the information literacy requirements at UMUC?

UMUC expects all students to use libraries and other information resources to locate, evaluate, and use information effectively.

Undergraduate Requirement

All undergraduate students are required to take LIBS 150 Information Literacy and Research Methods in the first 18 credits of study. This one credit class introduces the steps in the research process and strategies for effectively searching a variety of electronic resources. The class also provides an opportunity to practice evaluating and citing research results.

The Undergraduate School information literacy cross-curricular initiative builds on the general education requirement, Information Literacy and Research Methods (LIBS 150), to develop the student's ability to analyze, synthesize, and integrate knowledge, perspectives, and techniques (p. 15-16, 2002-2003 University of Maryland Undergraduate Catalog).

Undergraduate Information Literacy Objectives

The information literate student:

  1. determines the nature and extent of the information needed
  2. accesses needed information effectively and efficiently
  3. evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base
  4. individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  5. understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and access and uses information ethically and legally

This list of objectives is adapted from the American Library Association's Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (2000).

Graduate Requirement

All graduate students are required to take UCSP 615 Orientation to Graduate Studies in the first six credits of study. This noncredit self-paced tutorial provides an in-depth introduction to the library research process and the tools necessary to be effective in The Graduate School.

Both the undergraduate and graduate schools have identified information literacy objectives for graduates of their programs.

Graduate Information Literacy Objectives

Students who graduate with a Master's or Doctorate degree will demonstrate an understanding of the nature of academic research in their discipline by

  1. formulating viable and subject relevant research questions
  2. selecting the most appropriate investigative methods or information retrieval system
  3. evaluating the scholarly merits of sources against a set of supportable criteria
  4. comparing new knowledge with prior knowledge to determine the value added contradictions, or other unique characteristics of information
  5. ethically and legally using information to support or refute research hypotheses
  6. citing major authors and scholarly sources in their field of study
  7. locating relevant books, journals, and articles to support their research activities
  8. validating understanding and interpretation of information through discourse with others, including experts and/or practitioners.

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How do I integrate the skills that comprise information literacy into my courses?

Examples of student outcomes are provided using the Association of College and Research Libraries' Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Review the outcomes for each objective and then brainstorm how to develop assignments to meet these objectives in your own courses. A list of suggested activities and sample assignments are also provided.

Student competencies

1) Determines the nature and extent of the information needed

  • Identifies concepts and terms to describe information need
  • Develops a thesis statement and formulates questions based on the information need
  • Constructs and uses effective search strategy
  • Recognizes that knowledge can be organized into disciplines that influence the way information is accessed
  • Identifies the purpose and audience of sources (popular vs. scholarly, current vs. historical)
  • Differentiates between primary and secondary sources
  • Revises or refines research question
  • Recognizes that existing information can be combined with original thought, experimentation and/or analysis to produce new information

2) Accesses needed information effectively and efficiently

  • Selects efficient and effective approaches for accessing information
  • Develops appropriate research plan
  • Uses various systems and formats to retrieve information
  • Identifies gaps and refines search strategy if necessary
  • Creates a system for organizing information and uses various technologies to manage the selected information

3) Evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base

  • Restates concepts from information source into his or her own words and selects the appropriate data
  • Identifies material to be quoted
  • Examines and compares information from a variety of sources in order to evaluate its reliability, accuracy, authority, currency, and point of view
  • Analyzes the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods
  • Recognizes interrelationships among concepts and combines them into primary statements with supporting evidence
  • Builds on synthesized ideas to construct new hypotheses
  • Uses technologies and software (e.g. spreadsheets, multimedia) to study interaction of ideas
  • Applying evaluation criteria, compares information identified from various sources for contradictions with prior knowledge
  • Participates in electronic forums of discourse on a topic and seeks expert opinion through a variety of mechanisms (e.g. email, listservs, interviews)
  • Draws conclusions based on collected information

4) Individually, or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose

  • Organizes information to support purpose of project
  • Identifies appropriate medium and format to communicate results of project
  • Integrates new and prior information, including quotations and paraphrasings, to support purpose of project
  • Uses a range of technology applications in creating project
  • Clearly communicates to intended audience the purpose of the project
  • Maintains a log of activities related to project

5) Understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and access and uses information ethically and legally

  • Identifies and discusses issues relating to privacy, security, censorship, intellectual property, academic integrity and access to information
  • Consistent use of appropriate documentation styles for citing sources
  • Complies with university policies on access to information sources
  • Demonstrates an understanding of what constitutes plagiarism and does not represent the work of others as one's own

This list of competencies is adapted from the American Library Association's Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (2000).

Assignment suggestions to develop competencies

  • Assign a research problem for students to solve and then have them explain their methodology to solve the problem to the class.
  • Ask students to compare the difference between a popular and scholarly work in a specific discipline.
  • Ask students to critique questionable sources of objective information, such as a tabloid news article or a biased Web site.
  • Have students discuss the differences among various Web search engines (underlying structure of database, search interface, retrieval results).
  • Have students use a resource in paper and then in electronic format. Students should discuss the pros and cons of using the resource in different formats. How were they similar? How did they differ?
  • Ask students to perform a search using a Web search engine (such as Google) and a library database (such as ABI Inform) for information resources on a topic. Next have them prepare a description of the resources available through the two tools, and discuss how the tools are similar and different.
  • Ask students to prepare an annotated bibliography on an assigned topic. Entries should be properly cited, and students should explain how and where they obtained the information and evaluate its credibility and usefulness.
  • Have students develop a logical plan to retrieve information in a variety of formats, then retrieve and evaluate the information, and present their findings to the class.
  • Have students construct a timeline or map that illustrates the influence of a particular piece of published research and then summarize the relationship of the original research with what followed.
  • Stage a debate with pro and con panels. Have students investigate an issue and obtain relevant materials to support their position on the issue.
  • Assign an article that presents the results of research and includes statistical data. Ask students to discuss the research methodology used and evaluate the results as presented by the author(s).
  • Review plagiarism cases in the news, such as popular historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose, or journalist Jayson Blair, and ask students to retrieve and summarize articles about the cases. Have them tell you whether or not they agree with any sanctions against the accused authors.

Sample assignments

To be most effective, a library assignment should be a part of a larger assignment or project for the course. You may want to try out the assignment yourself first, or ask a UMUC librarian to review the assignment for accuracy since library resources do change.

The following assignments are based on actual assignments written by UMUC faculty.

See the Tutorial for Developing and Evaluating Information Literacy Assignments for additional assignment examples and guidelines for developing effective assignments.

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Common faculty questions

Many of my students only use Web sites as research sources. How can I help them to find reliable sources on the Web?

Many students use the Web for research because that is what is familiar to them, whether or not it is the appropriate resource for an academic paper. There is authoritative information available on the Web, and, in some cases, this is the only format for that information as it is “born digital,” but it's often hard for students to differentiate between what's valuable on the Web and what's not. Effective Web searching is a skill that requires an understanding of evaluating what is retrieved as part of their search results. You can help your students gain a better understanding of how to differentiate between what are authoritative, reliable, and credible sources and what are not. The library has created the tutorial Evaluating Web Resources, which provides criteria to use in making these decisions as well as example sites to reinforce the learning.

Ask students to show you the search strategies and criteria they used to find and evaluate their information and if necessary give them feedback to improve their searching skills. You may want to consider inviting a librarian into your classroom as a visitor to assist.

How can I get my students to use the UMUC library databases if they have only been using the "free" Web?

An exercise asking your students to compare search results from a Web search and a subscription library database can help them to see the value of using library databases for their research. When you assign a research project, require your students to use at least one source from a library database to encourage use of the databases.

How can I help my students to understand what a peer-reviewed, or refereed, journal is?

The ILS guide on how to Identify and Locate Scholarly Journals explains the difference between scholarly, popular and trade journals and a list is provided that can help your students to learn the characteristics of peer-reviewed journals.

If a student finds a journal article and he or she is not able to determine whether or not it is scholarly, you can direct them to the library's Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory. When you enter the title of the journal in the search box an Refereed Icon icon next to the title indicates a refereed editorial process for the journal.

Some library databases, such as Academic Search Premier, now offer the capability of limiting a search to scholarly or peer-reviewed journals.

What can I do to help my students learn how to better manage their research?

You may want to require that your students submit some form of a research log or journal that chronicles the steps they took in their research process by listing the tools they used in their searching and the search strategies they used. Many databases include a "Search History" feature for the current search session that can be saved electronically and sent to you as an e-mail.

What about plagiarism? I am concerned about teaching students how to avoid plagiarism but do not have a lot of time to cover it in my course schedule.

Many UMUC faculty require that students complete the UMUC's Online Writing Center plagiarism tutorial and provide a certificate of successful completion (100% correct) of the Plagiarism Posttest available in the tutorial. In addition, UMUC's Online Guide to Writing and Research Chapter 5, Academic Integrity and Documentation, covers the basics of why and how to cite sources. You may want to include the chapter as required reading for your students.

An additional source for information is the UMUC Effective Writing Center's Web site Helping Students Avoid Plagiarism.

Appropriate and consistent use of a citation style can help your students to avoid unintentionally plagiarizing sources. For specific help with the APA format, see the library's Citation Resources page.

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How can UMUC librarians help me?

As a UMUC faculty member you can arrange a visit by a librarian for a face-to-face or WebTycho class. The librarian will tailor the class to your needs, introducing students to library research methods and electronic resources. To request a consultation from a librarian, please fill out the form Faculty Request for Library Instruction.

If you would like to discuss with a librarian updating an existing assignment, or creating a new assignment for your students to help build information literacy skills, please send an e-mail to library@umuc.edu and we will be happy to work with you.

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Where can I get more information?

Below are several Web sites that have tutorials and additional resources about information literacy.

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