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Course & Subject Guides

Information Literacy Tools @ Pitt: Integrating IL

This guide takes an advanced look at integrating information literacy into library instruction sessions for students.

PowerPoints and Documents

The information in this guide is based on information in a series of presentations and documents associated with an Information Literacy Workshop presented by the ULS Information Literacy and Assessment Working Group.

Curriculum Models

Models for integrating information literacy into a curriculum:

1. Separate or Compartmentalized Model

  • Information skills taught as a stand-alone course.
  • Some instructors encourage students to use a basic interactive online tutorial that provides entry-level instruction.
  • When offered as a stand-alone, it should be in the context of a larger set of student learning outcomes for information literacy. 

2. Integrated or Distributed Model

  • Various disciplines and co-curricular activities address a core set of information literacy skills.
  • Blend the concepts into their curriculum content.
  • Distributed approach engages faculty and makes them partners in the information literacy instruction.

Companion Guide


The information in this guide is based on information in a series of presentations and documents associated with an Information Literacy Workshop presented by the ULS Information Literacy and Assessment Working Group.

This research guide was assembled with the assistance of Eleanor Gehman, MLIS Graduate Student, Hillman Library, University of Pittsburgh 2011-12.

The Goal

Better Information Literacy (IL) integration at the course and program level to improve the academic performance of students.

  • Embed into the research process of the course or program
  • Collaborate with the instructor(s) or program director(s)
  • Always tie instruction to the assignment

In order to research efficiently and effectively, students need:

  • Collaboration between faculty and librarians
  • Collaboration between academic departments and libraries
  • Connection between research paper process and everyday life research
  • Context: background, vocabulary, expectation, gathering resources
  • Librarian as informational coach
  • Frequent explanations of research (IL) concepts across courses and years from faculty and librarians

The Reality

The research process is more difficult with information abundance:

  • Technology issues now complicate research concepts further
  • Too many information choices, not enough orientation

The Typical Assignment

  • Write a 5-7 page paper on the topic of your choice.
  • Use scholarly sources.
  • Due the last day of the semester.

(This is most common in the humanities and social sciences. Note that often there is very little guidance for the students.)

Things students feel:

  • Anxiety
  • Annoyance
  • Stress
  • Overwhelmed
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  • Excitement
  • Dread
  • Uncertainty

Things students say:

  • "I have no idea [about the dates or details of my topic]."
  • "I can't find this article in the catalog."
  • "This magazine isn't online, so I can't get it."
  • "There is not enough on my topic; I have to change it."
  • "I don't know what a primary or secondary source is."
  • "My professor said to use scholarly sources...what are those?"
  • "Am I cheating if I use someone else's bibliography?"

Things students do:

  • Procrastinate (80% of H&E's 86 on 80% of their research assignments)
  • Spend 3 hours on research, 2 hours writing
  • Go to Wikipedia for context and to pre-search (8 out of 11)
  • Go to the Internet or databases for sources
  • Do "good enough" research to get by

The result:

  • Papers aren't as good as they could be
  • Research is associated with negativity
  • Hard for library to fulfill requests (reference and collection related) when students procrastinate

What Can Librarians Do?

Librarians can help faculty to:

1. Create better research assignments

  • Process over product
  • Tiered paper approach
  • Suggest alternatives to the 5-7 pages
    • Annotated bibliography
    • Literature review
    • Bibliographic essay
    • Evaluate and edit a Wikipedia entry
    • Grant or research proposal

2. Create tiered research assignments

  • Thesis/topic meeting
  • Research log/journal
  • Preliminary bibliography
  • Outline/introduction
  • Mid-point check
  • Drafts
  • Final paper

3. Embed smaller research components

  • Explain citations
  • Explain source types
  • Suggest disciplinary sources
  • Explain terminology (primary vs. secondary)
  • Explain information cycle

4. Teach Ubiquity

  • Research is not disconnected from the classroom
  • Research is not an outside skill
  • Research skills are necessary for all students' work