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Information Literacy Faculty Toolkit: Finding


Finding here refers to locating resources. This can include using library and other sources, both physical and web-based. Keyword searching, browsing, and following the citation trail may be among the strategies used in this element.

Student Struggles

Students struggle with:

  • Decoding disciplinary language to unlock access to research articles and make use of database search tools -- keywords, subject headings, thesauri
  • Following bibliographic trails using citations
  • Recognizing relevant articles when they see them in the midst of large numbers of retrieved articles
  • Identifying characteristics of reputable journals or identifying reputable authors
  • Assessing search strategies, and leveraging information from initial searches to construct more effective searches (Bergson-Michelson, 2010)

How Instructors Can Help

Encourage Exploration

Students have difficulty understanding the variety of information sources and why each would be used in a given situation (e.g. handbooks for overviews of a specific subject related topic). When discussing the information sources students will need for the assignments, explaining the value of the resource to their specific topic will assist students. You can:

  • Help students understand that useful sources may look vastly different depending on the discipline/topic.
  • Make your definitions clear: what constitutes a “scholarly” or “empirical” source in your discipline? What does your field define as a “primary” source?
  • Provide students with examples of articles that are appropriate in scholarship, tone, scope, topic coverage.
  • Direct students to a variety of resources on a topic so that they can see the value of books, articles, and other resources to the creation of disciplinary knowledge and understand the purpose of research articles in context.

Provide students with examples of articles and other resources that are appropriate for your assignment (scope, argument, purpose, etc.

If there is a database(s) that you recommend to students, direct them to the help and search tips pages. Ebsco and ProQuest are very good at this kind of support.

Ask a librarian to guide your students through the process of identifying and locating appropriate resources.

  • The more students know about the kinds of resources are available to them and suitable for their academic work, the more likely they will be to use them.

Assignment Ideas

Research Logs

* Students maintain a log of their research experiences, making note of search strategies, what worked and what didn't, and reflecting on how the information they found affected the way they thought about their topic.

Citation Chaining

* Students explore the impact of an article on a field by locating citing articles and writing about how those articles have used the original article.

Exploring Keywords in Databases

* Students use keywords in different disciplinary databases to see how the search results differ. 
Students critically analyze the keywords and Subject Headings found in disciplinary databases to see how different disciplines frame scholarship on a topic.

Advertising or Awareness Campaign

* Students learn to use demographic and market data, industry and trade publications, information from social justice organizations or scholarly literature related to advertising, communications and activism.

Database Searching

* Students develop the instructions for completing authentic tasks for a database or other resource that is new to them, and reflect on how they would use it in future (as scholars or professionals).