“Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”
Students are very good at finding things online. They are less adept at evaluating the resources they locate and utilizing them to support or refute a point they are making or engaging in the academic conversation on a given topic. Beginning college students are often unfamiliar with the research process and have not honed their ability to incorporate and build upon multiple information sources in a meaningful way. At the same time, studies show that research assignment prompts tend to focus on the details of putting together a research paper and don't adequately encourage key information literacy concepts, such as the importance of evaluating sources or using sources in context-dependent ways throughout the research process.
Instead of assuming students are good at research, consider designing research assignments as though students know little to nothing about the academic research process and scaffold assignments as much as possible. This allows students to build a foundation for their future work. Throughout the assignment, incorporate elements of threshold concepts in information literacy alongside those from your discipline.
Scholarship as Conversation
Help students view themselves as information producers, individually and collaboratively, that are part of a larger conversation. Underscore that they're not simply regurgitating information they find elsewhere, but integrating it with their own contributions to create something new. Demonstrate the various reasons why it's important to cite the work you use, ways they can contribute at an appropriate level, and how to critically evaluate the contributions of others.
Consider: In your program/course, how do students interact with, evaluate, produce, and share information in various formats and modes?
Authority is Constructed & Contextual
Have students engage with different types of authority (e.g. academic expertise, a position of prominence, etc.) and develop skills for identifying credibility. Expose them to the concept that information is likely to be perceived differently depending on the format in which it is packaged.
Consider: What are the markers of authority in your discipline? Have professional organizations and publications you're familiar with embraced new modes of communicating, such as blogs or Facebook?
Research as Inquiry
Scaffold research assignments so students can master and build upon their new skills. Convey the importance of consulting a variety of information sources to gain perspective and gather evidence to build a coherent argument. Assist students in identifying the appropriate research method to undertake depending on the need, circumstance and type of inquiry.
Consider: Are there ways you break complex assignments into simpler ones that build to a comparable conclusion?
Information Creation is a Process
Highlight the different ways information is created depending on the purpose or information need. Have students assess the fit between the way a piece of information was created and the need it fulfills, noting possible tension that may exist because of funding source, inherent bias or efforts to deceive.
Consider: Who are the gatekeepers (professional organizations, publishing companies, newsmakers, politicians, etc.) that shape the information creation process in your field?
Searching as Strategic Exploration
Guide students to strategize how best to approach a given research assignment. Discuss the benefits of matching information needs and search strategies to appropriate search tools. Expect them to use divergent (e.g., brainstorming) and convergent (e.g., methods of selecting the best source) approaches to locate a variety of relevant sources.
Consider: How do you approach research in an intentional manner?
Information Has Value
Lead students to appreciate that information is valuable as a commodity in and of itself, as a way to educate and also as a means to influence. Set an example of properly attributing sources and expect students to do the same (and not simply to avoid plagiarism). Have students engage different aspects of intellectual property rights, such as copyright, open access, fair use and public domain, and the role we all play in shaping how each is viewed and implemented. Press students to make informed choices about their actions online in full awareness of privacy implications.
Consider: In what ways does your discipline embrace or reject notions of intellectual property rights?