November 27, 2012
Good sources make good content: Improve student information literacy skills to improve quality of written assignments
The best student papers are written clearly, discuss content that is relevant to the disciplinary topic, and accurately analyze and synthesize good quality information to support logical conclusions based on evidence. The best students find and use good sources and use the information they find ethically.
Faculty who want to promote these learning outcomes can collaborate with a reference librarian, who will help instructors in several ways. Subject specialist librarians will develop library workshops that will promote information literacy skills in the instructor’s discipline. Reference librarians can show students how to use library data bases to identify scholarly sources for their discipline, construct data-base search strategies that use appropriate key words and other search terms, evaluate the quality of sources identified in a search, and cite scholarly sources appropriately.
Two reference librarians at UWF recently collected assessment data from instructors who requested library instruction workshops for their courses. In both cases, the overall quality of the student work submitted for class assignments was positively correlated with the overall quality of the sources students cited. Although better students (who write better papers) are likely to already know how to seek out high quality sources, a library instruction workshop might help weaker students identify and select higher quality sources and improve the quality of their assignment submissions.
Reference librarians are eager to help faculty develop assignments designed to improve student skills in using scholarly sources. Faculty can contact the reference librarian for their discipline and schedule a customized information literacy workshop that will meet the specific needs of students in the courses they teach. Contact the reference librarian for your discipline to discuss how you might collaborate to create an effective information literacy assignment and associated library workshop.
This tip is based on teaching strategy suggested by Britt McGowan, Melissa Gonzalez, and Shari Johnson, Reference Librarians at the Pace Library.
October 25, 2011
Develop skills in scholarly disciplinary research
Many disciplines expect that students will develop the ability to conduct research using the scholarly disciplinary literature. These research skills require information literacy skills in which the student can locate and evaluate sources of information.
This tip describes a collaborative project developed for a survey-level American history course by a historian and a reference librarian. This assignment could be adapted to courses in any discipline that uses visual materials (art work, artifacts, and photographs) as part of scholarly work.
Learning Outcomes for the Assignment
Assign a different image or artifact to each student. The student’s task is to write a 4-5 page essay that explains the image or artifact using information from scholarly sources and places the image or artifact in historical context.
Students need approximately two to three weeks to complete the research and writing components of this assignment, including time to request and receive materials available only through inter-library loan. Encourage students to meet with reference librarians out of class if they have additional questions about researching their image.
Essays must include the following elements
Library instruction associated with the assignment
The students will need two consecutive class sessions with a reference librarian in the library classroom. The first session is a library workshop demonstrating how to conduct searches in the appropriate library databases. The second session should be devoted to a discussion of the ethical use of information and the importance of citing sources. A brief demonstration of citation management software (e.g., RefWorks) can be provided or students can be referred to the library tutorial (http://libguides.uwf.edu/refworks). In addition, students should use some time during this session to begin their search for information about their assigned image. Both the instructor and the librarian should be available to answer specific questions about using the databases and evaluating the usefulness of information related to the images.
This tip is based on teaching strategy suggested by Suzanne K. McCormack, PhD (Department of History/Social Sciences and Center for Innovative Teaching, Learning & Assessment) and Susan G. Miller (Librarian), Community College of Rhode Island (http://www.ccri.edu/citla).
March 8, 2011
Help students develop paraphrasing skills to help deter plagiarism
Although many discussions of academic integrity and plagiarism focus on failures in ethical reasoning, student problems with good authorship practices are often motivated by weaknesses in reading comprehension or skill in writing paraphrases (e.g., Roig, 2007). Students frequently have problems paraphrasing ideas from primary sources because their understanding of the original work is weak. Sometimes these problems manifest as an over-reliance on quotations. The student who has difficulty paraphrasing might string together quoted material to create a paper and contribute few, if any, thoughts stated in the student’s own language. Some students may attempt to disguise their reliance on quoted material by omitting the quotation marks (and, even worse, omitting a citation) and then discover they are now charged with plagiarism.
Use an in-class reading and paraphrasing activity to promote comprehension of source material and good authorship practices
This exercise will give students practice in writing appropriate paraphrases. It will also serve as an immediate source of feedback about how well they understood the original passage and the concepts discussed. When the class develops a paraphrase that is both accurate and original, misunderstandings of the original ideas will be clarified and corrected. The class will also get direct practice with good authorship practices.
Based in part on an audio workshop, Avoiding the Plagues & Pains of Plagiarism, presented by Caroline L. Eisner, Academic Coaching & Writing (www.AcademicCoachingandWriting.org), February 1, 2011.
Roig, M. (2007). Some reflections on plagiarism: The problem of paraphrasing in the sciences. European Science Editing, 33, 38-41.
February 1, 2011
Library online tutorials – not just for students!
The University of West Florida Libraries hosts a variety of online tutorials. The index page lists a variety of topics, ranging from basic search strategies through discipline-specific library research skills, evaluating scholarly sources, writing skills and good authorship practices.
Faculty can develop student skills with information literacy by assigning one or more of these tutorials to students. Many of these tutorials include an online quiz that assesses the learning outcomes for the tutorial. Results of these quizzes can be e-mailed to course instructors to verify student completion of the tutorial, use as a graded component of the course, or include in departmental assessments of program-level student learning outcomes.
Faculty will also find online tutorials (without quizzes!) that are useful for their professional needs. One online tutorial provides information about how faculty can find data on the frequency with which their scholarly work has been cited and information on rankings and acceptance rates for the scholarly journals in which they publish. These data are frequently included in tenure and promotion portfolios as part of the evidence to document the quality and impact of scholarly work.
The direct URL for the Faculty Promotion Resources tutorial is:
Each spring, CUTLA provides a workshop on preparing for tenure and promotion. A panel of administrators involved with the review process and faculty who were successful candidates in the previous cycle will describe the process, give advice on preparing a portfolio, and answer questions posed by future candidates. Check the CUTLA calendar for time and location each year. This year, the T&P workshop will be held on February 4, 2011 in Conference Center Room A. Lunch will be served at noon. Discussion will begin shortly afterward and run until 2 PM.
Updated 11/27/12 cdw
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