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Information Literacy for General Education Breadth Courses   Tags: breadth, general_education, information_literacy  

A guide for instructors
Last Updated: Feb 20, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Below you will find some ideas regarding how you might integrate information literacy activities in your class. We have tried to keep these very general in order to appeal to the widest possible audience. Please keep in mind these are simply suggestions and that we would be happy to work with you. The following are simply meant to serve as a springboard for your own thinking about developing information literacy instruction for your breadth courses.


1. Focus on Introductory Nature of Goal

Students should be introduced to the ways in which scholars find and use information and create and communicate knowledge in a particular discipline. Metaphorically, students are just dipping their toes into the waters of disciplinary information/knowledge. Here are examples of specific, introductory information literacy goals:

Creative Arts: Students will "develop a language" for the arts by exploring how people write about the arts in reviews.

Social Sciences: Students will make connections between social science scholarship (or the questions that social scientists ask) and the real world, by applying scholarly research and theory to the real world current events or their own lives.

Sciences: Introduce students to scholarly sources and lead them to see connections among reports in popular media and research publications. Introduce students to the scientific method by helping them identify hypotheses in scientific literature.


Archaeology in the News
Created for USU 1320 by David Lancy, Department of Anthropology

A short, written assignment, similar to Science in the News, that introduces students to popular reporting about archaeological discoveries.


2. Students need to discover information on their own

If the instructor supplies all of the readings for the course, this reinforces the notion that the teacher is the source of all wisdom, and the students' job is simply to memorize what the teacher says. This puts students in a passive role in the learning process. Students also need to be introduced to searching for information using tools that they might not be familiar with, such as a disciplinary library database.



3. Students need to actually use the information that they find.

Assignments that require students to simply locate an article in the library is viewed as busy work and reinforces the idea that the library and its resources are irrelevant. “Using” information means learning from it, which can include summarizing it for class either orally or in writing, applying it to a key theory or idea presented in class, or applying a key theory from class to a recent story in the news or a student’s personal life. For fields with a strong applied element, such as the social sciences and sciences, it can be useful to focus on the relationship between scholarship and current events.


Nailing the Issue (scroll down for the assignment description)
Created for ANTH 2010 by David Lancy, Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

A good example of applying knowledge learned from a class and information from research to a current social issue. Also supports the principle of focusing on introductory goals, with the emphasis on summarizing the "meat" of an issue rather than a lengthy research paper.

Islamic History and the News (scroll down to Paper #1 for the assignment description)
Created for HIST 1060 by Debra Baldwin, Department of History

A good example of applying the humanities (or any historical knowledge) to current events. Also supports the principle of focusing on introductory goals, with its emphasis on analyzing a single news story.


4. Librarians should be included as part of the assignment or activity

Students need to learn that librarians specialize in certain subject areas and can help them navigate unfamiliar information sources. Librarian involvement can include a short (10 minute) introduction in class, leading discussions about how information is created and communicated in a particular discipline, or the creation of specialized research websites. See, for example,


5. Assignments and activities need to be carefully scaffolded each step of the way

Students need help knowing where to search for information and how to read, summarize, and apply it. Externalize or “make plain” scholarly inquiry in your discipline. Experts often hide the process of asking questions, exploring, and encountering inconsistency and new questions because it is such a natural part of their own work. This process needs to be broken down and made visible to students.



6. If possible, promote collaborative work between students

Students see that research is a process of synthesis and making connections when they actually practice this in a small group of students.


Requirement for Breadth Courses:
Students will develop their information literacy skills, including an understanding of the nature, organization, and methods of access and evaluation of both electronic and traditional resources in the subject area.



If you have any questions about integrating information literacy into your breadth classes, contact:

Wendy Holliday
Coordinator of Library Instruction

Phone: 435/797-0731


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