April 2003 Issue
By Tracey A. Stuckey-Mickell, College Reading & Learning Program, Northern Illinois University
Using Information Literacy for Computer Research Success: Part 1
NOTE: This is part one of a two-part article on how to help students improve their computer research skills through applying Information Literacy Standards.
At some point before graduation, nearly every college student is required to conduct research and write a fully referenced research report. As a teacher of freshman level college reading and study skills courses, I have discovered that many students begin college without the proper knowledge or tools to effectively engage in college level research. Their research experiences are usually limited to small-scale research projects (sometimes not properly referenced or not referenced at all) completed during high school, thus their understanding of the research process and how to effectively find, evaluate, and utilize information sources are usually not sufficient for their new needs as a college student. In high school they may or may not have used computers to help meet their research needs, whereas in college, they will most likely be required to do so.
Further complicating the needs of college-level student researchers is the pervasive use of the World Wide Web (WWW) for research. The WWW is a free, unregulated information medium. It is dynamic in that its contents are constantly changing and being modified. It is vast and contains wide ranges of information types from “non-information” such as advertisements, pornography, and entertainment sites to research studies and online scholarly journals. Our students, when searching for quality information, are placed in a quite a quandary. They are at risk for suffering headaches due to information overload or writing research papers based upon information that is not of the best quality (or both). I can barely determine which is worse! As learning skills professionals, how do we help our students wade through the vast amounts of “stuff” and find quality information to reference in their papers?
The Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the
American Library Association (ALA), has one possible solution for us—the
Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. The ACRL has
defined information literacy as a set of skills that enable a person to
recognize and describe a need for information and meet that need by finding,
evaluating, and effectively using information (http://www.ala.org/acrl/ilintro.html,
Applying the Solution
OK, so we have one possible solution—how do we apply it? There are several
ways to have students increase their information literacy levels and computer
research skills. Having students use web searching tutorials (such as
http://home.sprintmail.com/~debflanagan/main.html) or WebQuests (see
as part of a research project module or setting up library/computer searching
instruction with your institution are some effective ways to help students get
the practice they need—especially with using the WWW for research. Visit again
next month to read about some specific plans for applying the Information
Literacy Standards for computer research success.
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