Information Literacy in the Curriculum: A Page for Faculty


Librarians want to help students succeed with your research assignments. Our interactions with students in the library show that success involves not just the mechanical steps of doing research, but also the critical thinking skills that are needed to make good judgments along the way. We try to help students focus on the objectives you have in mind when you assign research projects. Do you want them to:

  • Develop a sense of the core journals in your discipline?
  • Understand how an issue has evolved over time based on broad reading of the subject?
  • Understand how to evaluate sources of information for reliability, authority, bias, accuracy, and scope?
  • Begin to incorporate outside ideas into their own knowledge base and then support their own original ideas with outside sources?

We offer assignment-based, tailored instructional services to help students achieve your goals. And we can provide active support right up until the due date. What can we do to support the objectives you have embedded in your research assignments?

Students' Experience with Technology

Photo showing students and a professor in dicussionStudents are great consumers of technology: Smart Phones, Instant Messaging, DVD's, and the Web. Their ability to be critical users of information, however, is less developed. These students are not unlike the sixteen-year-old who has learned the mechanics of driving a car, but is only beginning to develop good judgment behind the wheel. This judgment only comes with experience. Students' comfort with technology is often greater than their ability to select reliable and useful information, incorporate that information into their knowledge base, and effectively use it to accomplish a specific purpose.

Progressive Performance Levels

General Progression

The abilities to effectively find, evaluate, and utilize information define a set of skills called "information literacy." Students' information literacy skills develop throughout their time at Marquette in an incremental manner. The steps toward mastery can be viewed as progressive performance levels: beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. Students' ability to conduct research as freshmen is different from the ability of a senior, which is different again from that of a graduate student.

In order for students' skills to advance to higher levels, it is important to provide guidance and support over the course of their time at Marquette. Showing them the ropes one time as freshmen does not normally provide the level of support needed for the developmental process to occur. It is helpful when students receive subsequent instruction, at appropriate points along the path, on how to handle more complex research tasks than those which have previously been required of them. This subsequent instruction has been referred to as "scaffolding," where faculty and librarians provide continuously higher levels of support as the students move up to more difficult critical thinking tasks. When students are required to engage in a new and more complex research activity, a new layer of support is placed on top of the previous layers, in a "construction site" scaffolding manner. This process is not unlike the support provided to children as they acquire language skills. Adults explain the more complex language rules over time--a period of years, as children become more advanced and utilize progressively complex rules at subsequent stages in their development.

Specialized Fields

As students move to higher levels of ability, they develop a confidence in their ability to conduct general research. At this point, a second challenge is to help students successfully navigate through information in different fields, understanding the unique contexts and processes used to create and disseminate information in each field. This learning process occurs through normal classroom activities in a particular field of study, as well as through active research assignments with which librarians can assist.

The Anatomy of Information Literacy: Five Skills

Information literacy consists of five skills, as defined by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association.  The skills are intended to apply to any information seeking situation, whether it's deciding where to get a bank loan or completing a course assignment.  Sample components for each of the five skills are found below. The complete list of skills can be found on the ACRL web site at "Framework for Information Literacy."

How well do your students perform the following skills?

Ability to determine the nature and extent of the information needed.

  • Define and articulate the need for information.
  • Identify a variety of types and formats of potential sources of information.
  • Consider the cost and benefit of acquiring the needed information.