At the end of February 2008, I assumed responsibility for spearheading the library's effort to (in Margaret Groesbeck's words) "establish goals and standards for a new initiative – whether we call it information literacy, research education, or come up with an entirely new label... and to lead this process and cooperate closely with all of us in the Library, with administration, and with faculty to ensure that the Library plays the most active possible role in the formal commitment to educate effective researchers."

Teaching Student Research: A Faculty/Librarian Collaboration

The first project was the Faculty Lunch described below. Jessica Reyes and I discussed our collaboration to teach student research skills to seniors writing theses in Economics. The class is Econ 77 and the students meet 3 times with a librarian -- one for instruction in doing a literature review in EconLit and other databases, once for a session on finding data, and the third (with Susan Kimball) on using EndNote. The student library instruction evaluations were extremely positive about the value of research instruction. In addition, for discussion during the lunch I prepared a DRAFT of the type of skills we think students should develop in a given discipline (Political Science, in this case, below) over the course of their time at Amherst.

Faculty Lunch: Teaching Student Research: A Faculty/Librarian Collaboration March 14
On Friday, March 14, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Mullins and Faerber Rooms of the Lewis-Sebring Dining Commons, the subject of the Teaching and Advising Lunch for faculty will be Teaching Student Research: A Faculty/Librarian Collaboration. The topic will be presented by Jessica Reyes from the Economics Department and Susan Edwards from the Frost Library, who will discuss their experiences with this collaborative approach. They suggest that this process could be similarly productive in other disciplines.

DRAFT Political Science Library Research Skills

Submitted by (inactive)

We thought it might be useful to have a sample of the kinds of skills recommended for students in a given discipline for the Teaching and Advising Lunch on Research Skill.

First Year
  1. Consult reputable sources for quick lookups and essays, such as encyclopedias, handbooks, atlases, and dictionaries in Reference and online.
  2. Find books, reserve books, videos and more in the catalog based on author and title. Know how to find the material in the library with the call number.
  3. Understand the difference in the catalog between searching by subject and keyword.
  4. Know how to get a book from another Five College library using the request function and how to renew books online.
  5. Understand that the library catalog searches JOURNALS, not ARTICLES.
  6. Get a desired article from citation – navigate AC Links, catalog, Depository, stacks, etc.
  7. Create appropriate citations: understand when and how to cite.
  8. Consult with reference librarians if you have any questions, or just to discuss your approach.
  1. Know how to find an academic, peer reviewed article based on a topic (and know why peer review matters). Know there are many databases, use at least Academic Search Premier and Academic OneSearch. Search using truncation, synonyms, descriptors, plurals, etc.
  2. Read the abstract of an article retrieved by a database. Capture the citation of desired articles in a usable form (get the issue number, date, etc.)
  3. Know the difference between searching a fulltext source such as JSTOR and an index and abstracting tool such as Political Science Abstracts, and when to use each.
  4. Construct more sophisticated Internet searches – the “deep web” special search features, etc.
  5. Critically evaluate content retrieved from print and online sources.
  6. Understand secondary and primary sources – how they relate to each other, strengths of each. Some introduction to U.S. and international government documents, newspapers, statistics, interviews, laws (including tracing bills, voting records, etc.) 
Third and Fourth
  1. Construct sophisticated searches of complex databases such as LexisNexis (use Boolean operators, proximity connectors) and specialized ones such as Index Islamicus.
  2. Use interlibrary loan to obtain articles not at Amherst, and books not in the Five Colleges.
  3. Bias and perspective – explore Ethnic and Alternative Press, Left Index, for example. Use World News Connection (news in translation around the world) to see different perspectives (what are they saying in Iraq about the war, for example.)
  4. Learn to use citation tracking systems to see who has cited particular articles, such as the Social Sciences Citation Index.
  5. Search WorldCat, national library catalogs and print bibliographies as appropriate to find books outside of the Five Colleges.
  6. More in-depth use of primary sources not available online and not cataloged (for example, U.S. Congressional hearings, statistical publications such as the BLS and Census, Foreign Relations of the United States, Public Papers of the Presidents, Foreign Broadcast Information Service, United Nations publications, etc. etc.)
  7. Know how to organize a large body of citations, export them to a citation manager such as EndNote or Zotero and format them appropriately in footnotes and bibliographies.
  8. Unpublished material –“grey literature”, conference proceedings, AC student theses, dissertations.
  9. Comprehend how political science relates to other disciplines and their tools in areas with overlap such as economics and law.

Readings Before the First Week: ACRL Info Lit

  • Edge, Jayne W. “The Need for Strategic Planning in Academia.” T H E Journal (October 2004): 40- .
  • Shapiro, Jeremy J. and Hughes, Shelley K. “Information technology as a liberal art.” Educom Review (March/April 1996): 31- .
  • Grassian, Esther. “Building on Bibliographic Instruction.” American Libraries (October 2004): 51-

Creating a Comprehensive Plan for Information Literacy

I will be participating in the ACRL Online Seminar Creating a Comprehensive Plan for Information Literacy from April 7-28, 2008. The goal of the seminar is to complete:

  • A plan for assessment of an aspect of your information literacy program
  • A strategy for putting your plan on paper
  • A draft comprehensive plan for information literacy

I will post the citations (or links to the fulltext) of our readings, and try to summarize what I am learning as well as requesting input from all the people in the library who are involved with instruction.