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* Information Literacy Assignment Ideas for Instructors

 Assignment Ideas for Information Literacy

The interdisciplinary nature of information literacy can make it difficult for faculty to pinpoint exactly when or how to best incorporate it into their curricula. This page provides a starting point for those aiming to embed information literacy more firmly into their lessons and assignments.


Explore the tabs on this guide for:

  • Suggested guidelines for ensuring a successful research assignment
  • Activities and assignments gathered by librarians at other institutions
  • Alternative ways to assess for research and information literacy understanding beyond the typical research paper
  • Examples of information literacy assignments designed by WNE faculty

 General Tips

To help students complete successful, semester-long research projects, follow these basic tips:

  • Provide a written assignment to which students can refer 
  • Break it into smaller steps/chunks with specific deadlines and feedback
    • Research question
    • Preliminary bibliography
    • Research notes
    • Literature review
    • Draft
  • Focus on answering a research question/solving a problem
  • Focus on understanding differing points of view
  • Specify types of acceptable information sources (primary/secondary/tertiary, popular/trade/scholarly, currency of information, etc.)
  • Review the appropriate research tools
  • Assist students with identifying the vocabulary of the discipline
  • Review expectations of citations to avoid plagiarism
  • Use Turnitin (provided with Kodiak)
  • Consider providing a stellar example (such as a previous student's work)

 The Research Process

Below are some examples of exercises we use to engage students in information literacy, and which you can use in the classroom to encourage actively learning about research. They can be divided into six basic categories, each corresponding to one of the Frames of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.

Each category will provide a short explanation of its Frame. The tabs correspond to different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy:

  • Understand
  • Apply
  • Analyze
  • Evaluate
  • Create

Choose the tab based on what you'd like your students to be able to do.

 Authority is Constructed and Contextual

"Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required." (See here for more information on the "Authority is Constructed and Contextal" Frame.)

 Peer Review

Level: Basic, Intermediate, Advanced

Students working in pairs critically review each other's work for content and appropriate citations.  

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to...

  • Evaluate information and its sources for authority, purpose, relevance, reliability, audience, timeliness and depth
  • Identify how information is presented and used
  • Use information legally, ethically, and socially

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Analyzing Authority
    • academic/peer review
    • within a discipline
    • across disciplines
    • workplace
  • Political Punditry

 Evaluate a Book

Level: Intermediate

  1. In a class setting, the student reads and discusses a book from a university press related to the discipline being studied
  2. Student analyzes the book for content as well as audience, purpose, reliability, accuracy, and point-of-view
  3. After student analysis is complete, they read one or two critical reviews of the book to obtain the perspective of scholars in the discipline to understand the role of the book in the discipline

Can also compare to popular and/or trade books.

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to...

  • Evaluate information and its sources for authority, purpose, reliability, audience, and point-of-view
  • Understand the role of reviews within a discipline
  • Understand the purpose of academic books
Please note: This exercise requires pre-planning to ensure that there are reviews of the book.

 Website vs. Scholarly Article Comparison

Level: Basic, Intermediate

Working individually or in groups, students closely read both a website and a scholarly article to evaluate the information found in both sources.

Learning Outcomes: Student will be able to...

  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Identify main idea and argument
  • Identify purpose and audience of information source

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Authority Checking/Triangulating Information
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 Information Creation as a Process

"Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences." (See here for more info about the "Information Creation as a Process" Frame.)

 Deconstruct a Scholarly Article

Level: Advanced

  1. Student is given two or more scholarly articles of differing types
    • Examples: quantitative, qualitative, theoretical, case study, literature review
  2. Student will compare and contrast the elements of how the research article is constructed and how information is used in the creation of new knowledge

Learning Outcomes: Student will be able to...

  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Identify main idea and argument
  • Identify and understand sections of a research paper
  • Understand ethical, legal, and social uses of information

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Flowchart of research process
    • assignment: compare/contrast illustration of their research process to their idea of the "ideal" research process
  • Identifying information need

 Value of a Book

Level: Basic

  1. Student will read both a scholarly article and a book on the same topic
  2. Student will compare and contrast the type of information found in each

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to...

  • Evaluate information and its sources for authority, purpose, relevance, reliability, audience, timeliness and depth
  • Identify the different roles and purposes of books and articles

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Evaluating research methods
  • Evaluating information formats

 Research Journal

Level: Advanced

Working on a semester- or year-long research project, student will keep a research journal or notebook capturing:

  • Their research process
  • Significant information from primary investigation
  • Important/relevant secondary resources 
  • Issues
  • Successes and failures
  • Additional factors as appropriate

Learning Outcomes: Student will be able to...

  • Document research process
  • Identify their information need, topic, and question
  • Identify & select appropriate investigative method and information retrieval systems
  • Use various search services to access needed information
  • Access sources relevant to their information need
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Identify main idea and argument
  • Connect new data and existing information to create new knowledge

 Annotated Bibliography

Level: Basic, Intermediate

Student creates an annotated bibliography as part of a larger research project.

Learning Outcomes: Student will be able to...

  • Identify information need
  • Uses various search services to access needed information
  • Access a variety of sources relevant to their information need
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Identify main idea and relation to research question

 Information Cycle Timeline

Level: Basic, Intermediate, Advanced

Students will create a physical timeline from when an event happens, through the publication cycle and evaluate the information from all places in the timeline.  

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to...

  • Evaluate information and its sources for authority, purpose, relevance, reliability, audience, timeliness and depth
  • Identify how information is presented and used
  • Evaluate the relationship between time and information
  • Conceptualize the information cycle as evolving and recursive 
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 Information Has Value

"Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. Legal and socioeconomic interests influence information production and dissemination." (See here for more information about the "Information has Value" Frame.)

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Academic Integrity
  • Personal information and privacy
  • Social media and privacy

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Organization of information (Zotero)

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Open source information and subscriptions
  • Asking questions to solve social, political, and economic problems

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Plagiarism

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Citation styles
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 Research as Inquiry

"Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field." (See here for more information about the "Research as Inquiry" Frame.)

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Information and data integrity/accuracy in reporting information

 Concept Mapping

Level: Basic, Intermediate

Concept maps/mind maps display concepts/themes/ideas and their interrelationship in a visual way. Concept maps have been shown to be an effective organization tool that helps define a research topic.

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to...

  • Identify their information need
  • Identify keyword concepts
  • Identify beginning keywords
  • Focus their topic 
Note: You can concept map in Microsoft Word or utilize any of the dozens of programs available for use or purchase.

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Identify Info Need

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Narrowing/broadening topic
  • Evaluating research methods
  • Who would know/who cares?
  • Triangulating info

 Creation of a Research Question (Finding a Problem to Solve)

Level: Basic

Using a concept map as a beginning, students formulate a question to focus and guide their research and thesis development.

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to...

  • Identify their information need
  • Identify keyword concepts
  • Identify beginning keywords
  • Focus their topic 

 Information Summaries, Paraphrases, and Notes

The example assignment recorded here is courtesy of Deb Patterson.

Level: Basic

Student creates an analysis of one article/essay identifying main ideas and arguments.

Learning Outcomes: Student will be able to...

  • Evaluates information and its sources critically
  • Identify main idea and arguments
  • Restate textual concepts in own words
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 Scholarship as Conversation

"Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations." (See here for more information about the "Scholarship as Conversation" Frame.)

 Bibliographic Tracing

The example assignment recorded here is courtesy of Tim Vercellotti.

Level: Intermediate

  1. Student finds an article that is relevant to their research topic
  2. Student provides a complete citation for their article
  3. Student finds previous published research on the topic from the bibliography of the article
  4. Student finds out who else has used the original article in their research using the "Cited Reference Search" feature of EBSCO databases

Learning Outcomes: Student will be able to...

  • Use various search services to access needed information
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Access sources relevant to information need

 Academic Research in the Popular Press (Use a Popular Source to Find a Scholarly Source)

Level: Basic

  • Student will identify a research topic that is covered in both the popular press and in academic journals
  • Using clues from a popular article, student will find and access (using library databases) the scholarly research reported in the popular article
  • The article from the popular press will be compared and contrasted with its scholarly counterpart

Learning Outcomes: Student will be able to...

  • Use various search services to access needed information
  • Access sources relevant to their information need
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Identify and summarize main ideas and arguments

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Tracing an academic research source to an article/blog
  • Tracing articles cited in future articles w/in some databases

 Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Level: Basic

Working in groups, students compare primary, secondary, and tertiary sources of information on the same topic.

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to...

  • Distinguish between different types of information
  • Identify the various purposes of information types
  • Evaluate the authority, reliability, and audience for each type of information
  • Identify the process of the creation of new knowledge

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Analyzing bias
  • Analyzing misinformation, disinformation, propaganda
  • Evidence vs. opinion

 Evaluate Multiple Perspectives on a Topic (Literature Review)

Level: Intermediate, Advanced

Literature reviews require students to synthesize published information. To successfully complete a literature review students must:

  1. Critically interpret published material on a specific subject
  2. Create a summary of the sources consulted as well as an organizational structure that interprets the material on a specific framework or idea

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to...

  • Use various search services to access needed information
  • Access a variety of sources relevant to their information need
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Identify main idea and relation to research question
  • Use information ethically, socially, and legally

 Comparison of Popular, Trade, and Scholarly

Level: Basic

Students compare and contrast three articles (a popular, trade, and scholarly article) in their discipline to identify authority, purpose, relevance, reliability, audience, and timeliness.

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to...

  • Evaluate information and its sources for authority, purpose, audience, and point of view

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Informal Networks

 Annotated Bibliography

Level: Basic, Intermediate

Student creates an annotated bibliography as part of a larger research project.

Learning Outcomes: Student will be able to...

  • Identify information need
  • Uses various search services to access needed information
  • Access a variety of sources relevant to their information need
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Identify main idea and relation to research question

 Create an Anthology

Level: Intermediate, Advanced

Working in a group, students will find and select relevant information sources on a focused subject or research question that expresses multiple perspectives on a topic or solutions to a question.

Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to...

  • Evaluate information sources to identify point-of-view, authority, reliability, audience, purpose
  • Identify multiple perspectives on a single topic/question
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 Searching as Strategic Exploration

"Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops." (See here for more information about the "Searching as Strategic Exploration" Frame.)

 Synonyms and Subjects for Searching

Level: Intermediate

Students will identify synonyms and Library of Congress subject headings to find books/articles on their topics using library catalogs and databases.   

Learning Outcomes: Student will be able to...

  • Identify main ideas and their relationship to the research question
  • Restate main idea and research question in own words
  • Utilize Library of Congress subject headings
  • Use various search services to access needed information
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically

 Deconstruct Citations to Find Articles

Level: Basic

  1. Student is given one or more citations to information sources relevant to their class readings
  2. Student then finds and accesses the resource(s) using library tools.

Learning Outcomes: Student will be able to...

  • Use various search services to access needed information
  • Access sources relevant to their information need
Please note: This exercise requires pre-planning to ensure that the library has the resources needed!

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Keywords
  • Boolean logic
  • Proximity logic
  • Truncation

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Finding background information

Still to come... assignments for:

  • Database selection/open access/subscriptions
  • Organizations and associations
  • Primary source archives
  • International resources
  • Informal networks
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 Suggestions?

If you have any successful research activities or assignments to share, we would love to hear about them! Get in touch with an instruction librarian to spread the knowledge. 

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