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Ekstrom Library

Research Assistance and Instruction: Information Literacy Program

What is Information Literacy?

Information literacy is about finding, evaluating, and using information effectively. According to the Association of College & Research Libraries, information literacy is defined as “the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”

Information literacy skills are crucial not only for academic research, which requires finding and evaluating information, but also for informed and ethical participation in a democratic society. Information literacy is also important in the workplace, in financial planning, and in making health-related decisions, among other areas.

Information literacy instruction at the University of Louisville supports student success with research in a wide variety of contexts, encouraging both undergraduate and graduate students to think more critically about information and helping them find high-quality primary and secondary sources online and in print.

Class Descriptions

This is a list of the most commonly requested research instruction sessions. We adapt most sessions to focus on information literacy within the context of course-specific learning outcomes and assignments. Please note that this list is not comprehensive — we are happy to customize the session according to the needs of your class.

Please note that standard English 101 Instruction is now offered solely as an asynchronous online module, which covers general library resources and search techniques. Please find the online module and additional information here: english101online.

  • Standard English 102 Instruction

    Topics: searching library databases and other online tools (can be adapted to specific assignments); developing effective research questions and information search strategies; evaluating sources, including scholarly articles

  • Standard Communications 111/112 Instruction

    Topic: evaluating the credibility of information sources

  • Research Strategies for a Particular Assignment or Topic

    Topic: developing search strategies and learning about library resources relevant to a particular class assignment/topic

  • Evaluating Information

    Topic: evaluating the quality, credibility, and relevance of various sources within the information ecosystem

  • Understanding Scholarly Sources

    Topics: understanding the role of peer-reviewed sources in academic research; strategies for finding and evaluating peer-reviewed sources

  • Customized Library Session

    The librarian will contact you to discuss the goals, content, and activities for the session.

Learning Outcomes / Assessment

Information literacy instruction supports student success with research in a wide variety of contexts at the university. Individual class sessions and the instruction program as a whole are primarily assessed through post-session student surveys and faculty surveys. Online instruction is assessed through quizzes, activities, and/or completion logs. Given the customized nature of instruction and the diverse needs of both students and faculty across academic programs, we do not systematically assess learning outcomes for the entire student population we serve. Rather, we use the knowledge practices defined on this page as the foundation for instructional design, including the development of assessment measures for individual library sessions and online learning objects.

The knowledge practices inform pedagogy and guide content development for information literacy and library research instruction in face-to-face and online contexts. The knowledge practices are not prescriptive but provide a general overview of the information literacy practices, skills, and modes of thinking that students should be working towards developing in University of Louisville courses. Knowledge practices are defined within three broad categories:

Lower-Division Courses

Students should begin to conceptualize research as a process of critical inquiry in which they are active participants. Students should begin to develop foundational skills in finding, evaluating, and using information for college-level research assignments.

Upper-Division Courses

Students should conceptualize research from a disciplinary perspective and begin to contribute to the creation of new knowledge from that perspective. Students should develop more nuanced skills in finding, evaluating, and using information to explore discipline-specific research questions. 

Graduate Courses

Students should begin to make substantial contributions to a disciplinary or interdisciplinary body of knowledge. Students should develop highly advanced skills in finding, evaluating, using, and disseminating information as active participants in a scholarly or professional community.

The knowledge practices incorporate language from the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Additionally, while the practices should be considered discipline-neutral, the lower-division practices are based in part on the learning outcomes for the English 101-102 composition sequence, and the upper-division practices are based in part on learning outcomes from research methods courses in the social sciences and other areas. Librarians approach the knowledge practices with flexibility, tailoring library sessions and online guides/modules/tutorials to the goals and objectives of particular courses and assignments.

Student Knowledge Practices

Lower Division Courses

Students who are developing their information literacy skills will:

  • Formulate viable exploratory research questions, conceptualizing research as a process of critical inquiry and discovery. [Research as Inquiry; Searching as Strategic Exploration]
  • Recognize search tools (such as library databases, online search engines, etc.) appropriate for specific purposes and conduct strategic information searches, revising research questions and search strategies as needed. [Research as Inquiry; Searching as Strategic Exploration]
  • Distinguish among common types of information sources (including primary and secondary sources) and explain key differences in creation and dissemination processes (such as peer review) across digital and print contexts. [Authority Is Constructed and Contextual; Information Creation as Process]
  • Evaluate the credibility and relevance of information sources, applying specific evaluative criteria appropriate for the research context or situation. [Authority Is Constructed and Contextual; Information Creation as Process]
  • Identify select themes and several points of view within the “conversation” surrounding a particular issue or topic. [Scholarship as Conversation]
  • Apply appropriate citation conventions, demonstrating knowledge of basic intellectual property concepts and ethics. [Information Has Value]

Upper Division Courses

Students who are developing their information literacy skills will:

  • Define specific lines of inquiry within a disciplinary context and utilize appropriate discipline-specific search tools to conduct advanced searches for scholarship, statistics/data, archival materials, or other relevant sources. [Research as Inquiry; Searching as Strategic Exploration]
  • Identify authoritative information sources in a particular discipline and/or specialty area (such as key texts, scholars, etc.). [Authority Is Constructed and Contextual; Scholarship as Conversation]
  • Evaluate and analyze the credibility and relevance of scholarly literature and other information sources through a disciplinary lens, with particular attention to evidence, assumptions, and implications. [Authority Is Constructed and Contextual]
  • Demonstrate an awareness of both privileged and marginalized information sources (such as peer-reviewed sources, social media sources, etc.), recognizing the strengths and limitations of various points of view. [Authority Is Constructed and Contextual; Information Has Value]
  • Synthesize significant themes and identify potential gaps in knowledge within the disciplinary “conversation” surrounding a particular issue or topic. [Research as Inquiry; Scholarship as Conversation]
  • Apply discipline-specific citation conventions, demonstrating a more nuanced understanding of intellectual property concepts and ethics. [Information Has Value]

Graduate Courses

At the graduate level, students should continue to develop the practices defined for upper-division courses, in addition to the following:

  • Distinguish among traditional venues (such as subscription-based journals and databases) and alternative venues (such as open access publications and social media) for the dissemination of scholarship and make informed choices about where to publish. [Information Creation as Process; Scholarship as Conversation]  
  • Evaluate the influence and impact of particular scholarly contributions in context, using appropriate disciplinary metrics, such as impact factor, altmetrics, etc. [Authority Is Constructed and Contextual; Information Has Value]
  • Identify the scope and potential limitations of a particular disciplinary perspective and recognize the potential value of additional disciplinary perspectives (i.e., interdisciplinarity). [Research as Inquiry; Scholarship as Conversation; Searching as Strategic Exploration]
  • Apply relevant principles of copyright and fair use to the process of creating and disseminating scholarship, demonstrating an understanding of authors’ rights. [Information Creation as Process; Information Has Value]
  • Organize and manage the information seeking process for large-scale research projects, using appropriate citation management tools and strategies. [Information Creation as Process; Searching as Strategic Exploration]

Why Should I Bring My Students to the Library for Information Literacy Instruction?

As confirmed by a growing body of research, including the ongoing series of Project Information Literacy national studies, students experience many challenges while conducting academic research. These challenges include developing a viable research topic, constructing effective online searches, evaluating the credibility of sources, and navigating a complex and rapidly evolving information ecosystem. Without direct instruction and regular guidance, students will often struggle with research assignments and may not develop the necessary skills to succeed in the classroom, in the workplace, and in society. In a world where false or misleading information proliferates online, information literacy is perhaps more important than ever before.

If you have ever been disappointed in the quality of your students’ research, consider working with us. In 2016-17, more than 90% of surveyed students in our library sessions (n = 1,941) agreed that they were introduced to new research strategies and resources with which they were previously unfamiliar. Our faculty librarians collaborate with professors to tailor instruction to the needs of the class and the assignment. Our primary goal is to support faculty efforts to improve student research practices across disciplines and class levels. We accomplish this by teaching face-to-face and online library sessions, as well as developing custom online tutorials and research guides. Contact Amber Willenborg for more information about our instructional services. 

What Can I Expect from a Library Instruction Session?

After you request a library instruction session, the librarian working with your class will contact you to align goals and ensure that the content of the session will meet the needs of your class and assignment.

In general, we avoid the pure lecture format and encourage active student participation through group work and other in-class exercises. Exercises may include brainstorming search strategies, exploring particular databases, identifying the key characteristics of sources (such as peer-reviewed articles), or applying evaluation criteria to sources.

We believe that students learn the most in a single session by participating in their own learning and focusing on one or two specific skills or concepts. We do not attempt to address all aspects of using the library in one session, as this is not a feasible or realistic goal.

How Can I Help My Students Get the Most out of a Library Instruction Session?

  • Consider scheduling your information literacy sessions after students have received a specific research assignment and have at least some sense of their research questions or topics. Information literacy instruction is most effective within the context of a specific assignment (i.e. at the "point of need").
  • Please provide us with as much information as you can about the students' assignment. This helps us develop more relevant and engaging content and activities.
  • If possible, please attend information literacy sessions with your students. In our experience, a professor's presence tends to promote student engagement with class activities and increase overall participation. Feel free to comment and ask questions during the session.

What Information Literacy Services are Available for Online / Distance Students?

  • For online instruction sessions, we make use of collaborative and videoconferencing technologies such as Blackboard Collaborate and GoToMeeting. This enables students to attend and actively participate in synchronous online instruction.



Amber Willenborg

Online & Undergraduate Learning Coordinator

Ekstrom Library

Discover. Create. Succeed.