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Core Academic Skills Faculty Pack: Information Literacy

A suite of resources for faculty teaching Information Literacy Intensive Courses.

Popular vs. Scholarly Sources

Ask students to choose a course-related topic and search the library databases for a popular article and a scholarly article on that topic. Have them compare the authors, intended audience, language and vocabulary, and purpose (entertain, inform, persuade, sell, etc.)

This assignment can also be expanded to add other types of sources as relevant - newspapers, trade journals, websites, etc.

The library also provides an excellent research guide which discusses the difference between popular and scholarly sources.

Choose a Database

Students often rely solely on one type of source for their information (Google, or the default library database, Academic Search Premier).

Provide a general course-related topic and ask students choose a specific database they think would be best to search, and have them justify their choice.

A full list of the 60+ databases the library provides access to is here, sortable by subject.

Domain Name Comparison

Choose a course-related topic and have students complete an Advanced Search in Google, then compare four websites they find, one each from the following domains: .com, .org, .gov, .edu

Ask students to evaluate the purpose of each site (persuade, sell, entertain, inform), try to identify the author or responsible organization, and evaluate each site for bias and currency. Ask them to choose which site they think provides the most reliable information and articulate why.

The library also provides an excellent research guide on Evaluating Websites, which includes a domain name "primer."

Point of View

Choose a current news story relevant to the course content. Then have students find related online news articles about the story from a liberal news source (e.g. MSNBC, Huffington Post) and a conservative news source (e.g. Fox News, Red State). Have them compare the language and vocabulary, and the aspects of the story that are downplayed or highlighted. Have them then compare these with a respected, relatively objective news source (e.g. BBC News, the New York Times).

Discuss how the way the information is presented is designed to sway the reader - how is the information presented? Are headlines and language being used to report, or to evoke an emotional response? Does the reporter infer conclusions not supported by the events or facts?

Research Journal/Blog

As part of the process for a final research project, have students keep a research journal or blog, wherein they note where they search for information, what search terms they use (and how they refine them), what sources they review (in any format - web, print, databases, etc.), and which sources they decide to use or dismiss, and why.

To cite this LibGuide use the following templates:

APA: Northern Essex Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page. Title of LibGuide. Retrieved from URL

MLA: Northern Essex Community College Library. "Title of Page." Title of LibGuide, Date updated, URL.