Information Literacy and Writing Assessment Project:
Tutorial for Developing and Evaluating Assignments

Examples of Assignments

Information literacy assignments progress through several different levels of difficulty. The most basic level is appreciation and the most challenging is integrated skill. For each level, assignment examples are provided to help faculty to develop assignments of their own.

Appreciation

  1. Have students explain what an information database is and how it is relevant for finding information.
  2. Have students discuss the differences among various Web search engines.
  3. Have students examine the role of information in a democratic society. What are the issues? How is information relevant or important to them?
  4. Have students explain the difference between a popular and scholarly work.
  5. Have students explain how information is stored and retrieved, (e.g., print, microform, optical, floppy, CD-ROM, magnetic tape).
  6. Have students go to a library either on the USM campus or in their local community and report back on the kinds of services that are available.
  7. Have students share information on how to obtain a library card in their local community or through the University System of Maryland libraries.
  8. Have students interview an information professional about how computers have changed the way people access information.


Literacy

  1. Given a topic, have students search for relevant information resources using the Web and compare what they retrieve with the resources found in the library databases.
  2. Have students complete the research for a term paper except for the paper itself. Have students turn in at intervals: choice of a topic, annotated bibliography, outline, thesis statement, first paragraph, and conclusion.
  3. Have students identify 10 articles from the library databases and obtain at least three full text articles, providing a full bibliographic citation.
  4. Have students compare using 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?
  5. Have students retrieve statistical resources of relevance to their course. Have them look for statistical trends and postulate the causes of those trends in writing. Discuss in class the most likely causes of the trends.
  6. 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.


Facility

  1. Stage a debate in class with pro and con panels. Students should be responsible for obtaining relevant information, including both electronic and paper resources.
  2. Write an evaluation of a particular work or person using book reviews, weighing biographical information about the author and the reviewers. Students should identify at least one electronic resource available on the topic.
  3. Compare a fictional work with social commentary or accounts written about people during the same time that the fictional work takes place. Cite the resources used, ensuring that the citations are accurate.
  4. Have students examine a Web search using a search engine (such as Google) and a database (such as ABI Inform) for information resources on a topic. Have students prepare a description of the resources available through the two tools and discuss how the tools are similar and different.
  5. Have students prepare an annotated bibliography including the best, most useful books, essays, periodical articles, or other relevant sources on a subject. Entries should be properly cited and annotated. Students should be prepared to explain how each work was useful to them: basic information, useful insights (if so, what?). Also, students should explain how and where they obtained the information.
  6. Have students prepare a term paper using appropriate resources in a variety of formats.


Integrated Skill

  1. Have students develop a logical plan to retrieve information in a variety of formats, retrieve the information, evaluate the information, cite the information resources appropriately, and present their findings to the class.
  2. Have students use a bibliographic file management program to download citations and personal files of references and then develop a bibliography using their package.

Information Literacy Assignments in Use by Faculty at UMUC


A Stand-Alone Assignment

Review a newspaper or business magazine for accounts of or editorials about ethical issues that have arisen in business or the professions. List four titles and match those with units in the course syllabus. Provide a brief abstract of each article. What conclusions can you draw from this article?

Example

Article: Morin, R. (1994, January 23). Women as winners, losers and movers. Washington Post, p. C5.

Course syllabus unit: Unit 7. Issues especially affecting working women, and sexual issues in business ethics.

Abstract: Although 6 out of 10 Americans interviewed in a Gallup Poll said society favors men over women and women do not have equal job opportunities, women continue to make real progress moving up the corporate ladder. More young women than young men have moved out of their parents' home. Men rebound financially from divorce significantly more quickly than women.

An Assignment Integrated into a Project

Students are asked to write papers on an activity in which an individual knowingly breaks a societal, religious, or institutional law. A list of possible actions such as shoplifting, copyright abuse, plagiarism, pre-marital sex, speeding, employee theft as examples would be helpful to get students started on the assignment. As a first step, students conduct a literature search for information on prevalence, arguments for and against, and consequences of the action they have chosen to study. With this preparation, students plan and carry out a piece of original research--a survey, interview, observation, etc. The results must be included in their final paper. Make it clear to students that although their research is not strictly scientific, their findings do have a valuable place in their papers. In a brainstorming activity, students are encouraged to consider their topics from different perspectives by writing in-class profiles titled "I am a ____________________," in which they pretend they are the law-breaker, the law-enforcer, the victim, and so on.

(Adapted from Anne C. Coon, "Using ethical questions to develop autonomy in student researchers," College Composition and Communication, 40, February, 1989, 85-92.)

Letters to the Editor

Each student chooses a topic of current national interest and writes a letter expressing his/her opinion on the subject to the editor of a local newspaper.

Students work in small groups to critically examine one another's letters and to identify any dubious statements. Each student is assigned to substantiate those statements that were singled out by the group as needing more convincing evidence or authority. Research is required for the process, and the result is a 750-word essay, with documentation in the form of notes and a bibliography.

Information Literacy and Writing: Evaluating Assignments

The following assignments are actual assignments in use at UMUC. Examine the assignments and decide which ones you think have a writing assignment, information literacy assignment, or both and which ones do not. If the assignment does not include a writing or information literacy component, try to modify it so that it would include one. If the assignment contains writing or information literacy, alter it so it would include both.

As you review the assignments, decide whether they require students to:

  1. identify
  2. retrieve
  3. evaluate
  4. effectively utilize information


Sample Assignments

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Additional Examples of Assignments Available on the Web

There are a number of sites on the Web that offer excellent examples of how faculty across the country are integrating the use of the Web, and resources on the Web, into their courses. The sites below provide numerous examples, usually listed by discipline, that you may wish to use to get ideas of how to integrate the use of Web-based resources into your course.

The Information Literacy Checklist

The information literacy checklist provides proposed standards faculty can use to create an assessment tool of their own for their individual research assignment. You may use all or some of the following standards when evaluating student research.

In evaluating student research, it is helpful to have a standard tool that allows the faculty member to compare students to the standard to determine their level of success in completing the research project. Below are some suggested standards faculty can use to evaluate student research-based assignments.

Suggested Standards for Evaluating Student Research

  • The student used resources beyond book and journal materials (e.g. World Wide Web resources, technical reports, personal interviews), if appropriate.
  • The research question chosen for the paper was succinct and clear.
  • The materials referenced in the body of the paper were accurately cited. 
  • The topic chosen was sufficiently narrow to allow the student to research it thoroughly. 
  • The bibliography demonstrated that the student had chosen those resources most pertinent to the research question rather than listing everything available on the topic. 
  • The bibliography included a variety of resources (e.g. scholarly journals, popular journals, and newspaper sources). 
  • The materials used in the bibliography were both historical and current (if relevant) and presented in a standard style format. They included a sufficient number of primary sources (when appropriate) and included a sufficient number of secondary sources. 
  • The student's paper demonstrated that the student: 
    • could distinguish between fact and fiction.
    • could differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information.
    • identified the author's purpose and point of view accurately.
    • identified unsubstantiated statements.
    • identified inconsistencies, errors, and omissions.
    • identified bias, stereotyping, or incorrect assumptions.
    • could compare and contrast different points of view properly.
    • included his/her original ideas.
  • The student understood and used consistently a uniform system of documentation (citation format).