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Adjunct Faculty Orientation: Assignment suggestions by subject


  • Research log - have students record library research: methodology, sources consulted, keywords or headings searched, noting successes and failures.1
  • Compare searches -  have students do a search on a popular search engine (like Google) and the same search on a database that the library subscribes to, then compare the the results from each (could also compare two databases, or two internet search engines).
  • Have students discern and describe the differences in information found in encyclopedias, web sites, academic journals, and popular magazines. 
    • The Evaluating Sources portion of Pellissippi's Library Orientation Tutorial may be useful for this.
    • Also familiarize students with reference sources and periodical indexes (and when it is appropriate to use them)
  • Have students read different sources on a topic and then compare the way perspectives on that topic have changed over time.
  • Instruct students about how to determine whether a piece of information is popular or scholarly and whether it is a primary, secondary, or tertiary piece of information.
  • Instruct the students about citation management tools, like the “print, email, save, export” features of EBSCO and other databases, programs such as RefWorks, EndNoteWeb, and EasyBib. Give the students an assignment to create a bibliography with bibliographic management software, using three sources.
    • Pellissippi State subscribes to EasyBib,  
  • Assign an annotated bibliography as preparation for a major research assignment (or an assignment in itself).
  • Other ideas:

Additional Resources (also resources used in writing the text above)

ACRL Wiki includes science teaching tips for each information literacy standard (the guide mentions they are not evaluating the tips in any way at this time, instead they desire to gather as many as possible).

To Summarize: Tips for Standard One: Identifying information needs

  • Collect and review written statements of research topics in students' own words.
    • Use "concept maps" or some other method to break topics into smaller pieces (and examine the relationship between those smaller pieces). 
  • Discuss the creation and flow of information in science, highlighting scientific review journals and the role they play in synthesizing the literature.
  • Include questions in a quiz or test that require students to identify whether a piece of information is popular or scholarly and whether it is a primary, secondary, or tertiary piece of information.
  • Teach students about the "half-life of articles"
  • Show results of a keyword search in a database on a broad topic, demonstrate that one can find a more focused topic from search results. May also consider having students document their research process (their search strategies, how they refine their searches after an initial search).
  • Explore need for controlled vocabulary by finding synonyms (chemical compounds and animal/plant names are good for this).
  • Discuss science publication cycle (Science Information Tutorial from UC Irvine, and this flow chart for the science publication cycle from the University of Waterloo Library may be useful) and consider including the sequence in a quiz or test
  • Show students the United States Patent and Trademark Office and European Union's Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market Have students use Google Patent to find patents.
  • Compare similar resources in several disciplines -- how do Chemistry and Physics use spectra? How does the taxonomy of chemical compounds differ from the taxonomy of animals? Why is that?
  • Introduce papers of famous scientist(s) to demonstrate the importance of historical information. Discuss historical papers in the context of the specific discipline.

Standard Two: Acquiring useful information

  • Introduce browsing by Library of Congress call numbers, familiarize students with LC call numbers for the scientific discipline you are teaching.

Standard Three: Evaluating Information

  • Provide quotes from science articles written in the popular media, ask students to decide if they are based on fact, point of view or opinion. Ask them to back up their answer with another source or a counter example.
  • Ask students to find an article on a science topic in the popular press (radio, TV, or newspaper), then to verify the data from a different source.
  • Have students decide and report how they would test the validity of results, i.e. what activity would convince them the article results are valid.

Standard Four: Effective, ethical use of information

  • Construct a lesson on scientific publishing and open-access journals. Have the students look up journal prices for several titles. Explore sites like PLoS, BioMedCentral, and PubMedCentral and discuss how these fit within the realm of scientific publishing.
  • Introduce citation style of appropriate discipline, perhaps in context of a bibliographic management software package. Have the students sign up for their own account, transfer citations into the software, and format a bibliography in the appropriate style.

Standard Five: Lifelong Learning

  • Teach students about Google Scholar tracking of citations and cited references. Give them an assignment to look up their professor in a cited reference search.
  • Introduce students to email alerts in a database of choice. Give them time to set up an alert themselves.
  • Present the students with two issues, one from a review journal and one from a regular journal. Have the students compare the two issues and discuss the differences between them and how they might be useful.1


1. Bulleted items based on or from Teaching Tips, (n.d.). Association of College & Research Libraries Wiki. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from

Some examples of math assignments that incorporate information literacy can be found at Metronet (although the entire assignments are not accessible without a login). 

Some ideas:

  • Have students use data available from publicly accessible sources (like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' website) or  databases accessible from the college's library (like BusinessDecision) as part of an assignment. For an example see the assignments titled Working Fqamily Values, Nutrients by the Numbers, National Debt and Wars, and Forecasting the Future from Metronet's Lessons Incorporating Information Literacy and MATH page. Have students cite the sources of this data.
  • Have students find the averages, means, mode, median, range, and variance of data they find (ex. from Metronet assignment titled Get the Mean-ing, "the relative heights of presidential winners and runners up").