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COMM A111 - Information Literacy Integration

Information Literacy Activities and Assessment Incorporated into COMM A111, Fundamentals of Oral Communication, during 2013-2014

Student Learning Outcome: Effective Search Strategies

The information literate student constructs and implements effectively designed search strategies.

Library Session: Search Tools

Students are introduced to "Search Tools,"  including wildcard*/truncation*, "phrase searching," AND (Boolean OR compound search strategies).  The librarian asks students to identify what happens when the following symbols are added to their search strategies:

educat*  -  (wildcard symbol / truncation searches for words that begin with this word segment)  This expands the search results.

"vitamin c"  -  ("" around two or more words conducts a phrase search for those words in that order)  This narrows the search results.

Boolean Searching:  Students are told to think about their topic and draw from the previously constructed bubble map. For example, if a student had the non-profit AfricaAid, they might come up with (hunger OR starvation OR hungry OR famine) AND Africa. In COMM A111, we use examples that connect with their topics. It would also work to use a more general example. For instance, try (coffee OR tea) or (coffee NOT tea) and see what comes up. Showing live examples can really help students! Using ( ) tells the computer to search for what is in the parenthesis first, and then combines it with the other term(s).  Telling students to think about the order of operations in Math usually helps them get it!  

When using OR and NOT in searching QuickSearch, students are told that the words OR and NOT need to be typed in ALL CAPITALS.  Students are asked, "Why do you think this is necessary?"  Sometimes they know.  It is so that the computer recognizes OR and NOT as meaning OR and NOT.

Assessment: Stationed at computers in the Library's instruction room, students are asked to think about search strings and partial words that relate to their topic and then do a search with their topic and look for varying results. 

Library Session: Different Search Terms = Different Results

Students in COMM A111 have a unit on the nature and importance of language and how it may be used to shape perceptions. Professor Whitney uses this unit to introduce the importance of language use in successfully finding information. This is re-inforced during the Library Instruction Session when students are introduced to the use of synonyms as alternative search terms. For example, streams and creeks and brooks mean the same thing, but searches with these words could reflect regional differences, different constituencies (lay vs. scientific) and may result in varying sources of information. Students are encouraged to think about how people connected with a particular topic or industry may use different words to describe it.

Assessment:  Students contribute synonyms and alternative search terms to example bubble maps on the white board.

Library Session Activity: Bubble Mapping Search Terms

The librarian demonstrates the use of bubble map(s) to brainstorm alternative search terms. This activity reinforces previous in-class instruction on the interrelationship between language and perception, as well as the importance of audience adaptation. Students: 

  • Are taught why and how to brainstorm their topic to establish alternative search terms
  • Create bubble maps on their topic to establish alternative search terms
  • Exchange bubble maps with other students, and add additional terms to another students' bubble maps

Students create bubble maps for their own topics. After about five minutes, students trade with a classmate who is asked to place additional words on the bubble map.  This dyadic work allows students to see the value in gaining the perspective of another person. In some cases, more than one bubble map may be created for a topic, since many topics include dual concepts. For example, a non-profit dealing with clean waterways could have a bubble map about environmental terms and then another related to legislation and public policy. Students could then work to see points of commonality between them, or use them to narrow the scope of their presentation. 

Assessment:  Are students thinking of more than one synonym?  Are they able to add associated words to someone else's bubble map?

In Class Activity: Language and Audience

Students read a chapter on the nature of language, as well as a blog entry called "How to Email a Professor." Working in teams, they are presented with two sample emails requesting enrollment in a full class. Both are largely written in "text speak." Teams work to revise the emails in a manner that makes the sender's request more clear and conveys an understanding of the intended audience.

This activity provides an opportunity for students to apply knowledge gained in the pre-reading. Students are generally able to demonstrate their comprehension of the idea that words shape understanding and, potentially, engender response.

Assessment: Teams revise the emails on a form that is submitted at the end of class. They also share their revised texts with other teams in class.