Why Information Literacy?

Info Lit

Why Information Literacy?

Now that you have a better idea what information literacy is, why do you need it? You’ve gotten along fine so far in high school; written book reviews, papers, given presentations, etc. How different can research really be in college? Let’s look at some recent studies and interviews with students to get an idea of some of the particular issues facing incoming freshmen.

Top Research Challenges for College Freshmen

  • 74% of student struggle with formulating keywords and efficient online searches.
  • 57% had difficulty determining which results were relevant.
  • The average college library has 19 times more databases than the average high school, and some colleges have up to 34 times more databases.
  • First term freshmen generally find the “ginormous” size of college library resources overwhelming, with an average of 9 times as many books than in high school libraries.

Download the full pdf infographic, PIL_Infographic How Do Freshmen Conduct Research for additional findings on freshmen research. Focus on the steps of research most freshmen find difficult, as well as the resources they find most helpful.

video graphicVideo: What Do Freshmen Say About College Level Research?

The studies from Project Info Lit and Easybib reveal very similar statistics and results. The following short videos give you an idea of what students actually feel when confronted with these challenges. Watch the 2 ½ minute video PIL Freshmen Studies by ProjectInfoLit. followed by first 2 ½ minutes of the YouTube video Integrating Information Literacy into Courses by the American Public University.

students head down

It is incorrect to assume that because most todays freshmen grew up with a thriving Internet at their fingertips, they are naturals at college­‐level research. Project Info Lit Research Reports: Learning the Ropes, Dec. 4, 2013.

reading iconReading: Why Are Many Students Unprepared for College Level Research?

According to a 2012 article “Chicaog Tribune The Term Paper is Disappearing” one high school revived a research paper requirement after more than a decade after recent graduates of the school said they wished they had done more research and in-depth writing while there. While teachers may accept a Power Point or short report instead of a lengthy research paper, that may not be to the student’s advantage. Samantha Wesser, now editor of The Concord Review (a journal of history papers from high school students) wrote on its blog; “I didn’t know how lucky I was to be in the small minority of college freshmen who had learned how to write a research paper in high school. Most American high school students graduate without ever being encouraged to explore a topic in such depth, and yet this is exactly the kind of work they will encounter in college, especially in the humanities.”

For more on student’s experiences and teacher’s expectations of high school research, read the following article from the Washington Post which focuses primarily on the requirements for English research papers Long papers in high school Many college freshmen say they never had to do one.

assignment iconAssignment:

Reflect on the studies, videos and articles then respond to the following questions in a brief paragraph or two. Upload into the OneNote Notebook “Information Literacy”.

  1. How confident are you that your high school research skills will meet the needs of college level research? Discuss whether or not you have been required to write research papers, how in depth or long they were, and any concerns you have about the research process.
  2. Of the concerns students voiced in the videos, which do you feel you most share? How aware were you of the need for these skills prior to this module?
Information Cycle


How does the topic you research even become a topic worthy of research and review?  This is part of the Information Cycle.  The amount of material you may find on a topic is related to where the topic falls within that cycle.  The type of information you find also depends on where it falls in the cycle.  Is there enough information on your topic?  It depends on the information cycle.


Timeline of Information Cycle: Minutes and hours after an event you will find basic information such as who, what, where, whey and when.  Television and websites would have this information.  If the story lasts several days the media may continue coverage, adding details and presenting expert opinions on the event.

Weeks after coverage would include basic analysis, causes, opinions and editorial bias.  Months afterwards, information moves beyond media outlets and may be found in academic publications featuring analysis, biographies, and theories.

Years later books will contain bibliographies, background information and critiques of previous coverage and analyses.  After many years, information may be found in print and online in encyclopedias, databases, textbooks, etc.

While the information cycle moves in a linear way, when you research you may choose to start at any point in the cycle depending on which type of information you want.  If you want interviews from close to when the event occurred, newspapers, whether online or in print are a good choice.  If you want a basic overview of the event, an encyclopedia works well.

This leads to types of sources, primary, secondary and tertiary.

Types of Sources: Within the information cycle, type of sources will  vary by discipline from Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences.  Some example are listed in the graphic below.

types of information by area of study

Quiz: Use the Socrative app, go to Library20 to take the 5 question Information Cycle Quiz.

socrative logoLIbrary 20 Socrative

Types of Information

Scholarly, Trade and Popular Sources
Even within the many types of sources there is a differentiation between scholarly one and popular ones and those called trade sources.  This chart shows difference and examples of each.

Adapted from https://library.gmu.edu/tutorials/popular-scholarly-trade
Differences Between K12 & College Libraries

We tend to think libraries are the same the world over, full of books and computers.  To some extent this is true but libraries differ in their resources and programs based on the population they serve.   As we’ve seen in the previous module, the amount of books, databases and new resources in college libraries can be overwhelming.  Let’s take a look at some of the basic differences between K-12 libraries, public libraries and academic libraries, using a chart from the website Transitioning to College.

Library of Congress Call Numbers in an Academic Library

As you learned in the chart above, one of the most practical differences between your K-12 libraries and a college library is how the books are arranged.  You are probably more familiar with the Dewey Decimal system.  The biggest difference is that fiction and Literature are not shelved alphabetically by the author’s last name.

In the Library of Congress system, novels and short stories are mostly found in the “P” section since this is the area for literature and language.  Take a look at the brief guide from the University System of Georgia How to Read Call Numbers in an Academic Library as well as the side by side comparison of classification systems to get a basic idea of how books are arranged in an academic library.

Take a Virtual Tour of an Academic Library
While some students feel overwhelmed by the “ginormous” size and scale of college and university libraries, they offer many services and features not found in most high school libraries.  Let’s get familiar with some of them before you even graduate.  Take the Mugar Memorial Library at Boston University Virtual Tour and find the hours at the Mugar Memorial Library Homepagehome.  Explore and familiarize yourself with the library facilities and capabilities.  How many libraries are there at Boston University?

 Activity: Reflect on what you’ve seen on the tour and website exploration and respond to the following questions on the Discussion Board, returning throughout the module to post at least two responses.

  1. What new or surprising resources are offered at the libraries and which do you think would be most useful to you in college? This may be a physical resource, extended hours, online resource, or other.
  2. Which of these resources would have been most helpful to you in high school?

Academic libraries contain resources that reflect the courses taught at that school.  Often there are specialized libraries in addition to a main library with many technological resources available.  Librarians, Help Desks, and online services are available to help you navigate the library, which is arranged according to the Library of Congress classification system.




Choosing a Research Topic


Developing a Paper Topic Video Tutorial

If you are having trouble coming up with a topic, try the resources built into the following databases and websites.  They give you topics and ideas that can help you formulate a thesis.

ELibrary: Choose Topics instead of Search to see broad topics, narrow to specific results.

Research in Context: Choose Browse Topics.  This is a WRL database that WJCC students have access to without a library card. When prompted to enter a library barcode use wjcc and your student id, ex. wjcc10001056.

ProCon.org: Provides as list of current social issues.

Idea Generator – Old Dominion University Libraries
Tabs at the top of the page break down broad topics divided by discipline.

Room for Debate from the New York Times.

Background Knowledge
Background information includes basic information on a research topic such as important terms and concepts, relevant names of people or places, and dates of specific events. It helps you get an overview of your topic, discover keywords for searching databases and identify a narrower, more focused aspect of your topic on which to focus.

General Google searches, even Wikipedia can help you become more familiar with the topic.  You can use them to discover definitions, general trends, subtopics, and other items of interest about the subject you are interested in. Once this information is gathered, you can use it conduct more effective research.

Gale Virtual Reference  Library: Cross-searchable collection of over 800 reference titles from Gale.

Keyword Searching
A broad list of key words will help yield better results.  When you have a topic idea underline the key words and add synonyms, make plural or acronyms.

Example: steroid abuse is reaching epidemic proportions among high school athletes.

Come up with more narrow, broader and related terms;

Term: Steroid
Narrower Term: anabolic steroid
Broader Term: drugs

Term: Athlete
Narrower term: body builder; football player
Broader term: sports

Term: epidemic
Related Term: statistics

Term: High School
Related Term: young adult; adolescent; teenager

Take the four question review quiz by going to https://b.socrative.com/login/student/ and enter Room Library20.

Your next steps in the research process will be finding, evaluating and citing your sources in subsequent modules.

Evaluating Websites