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ENGE Instructor Toolkit: Information and Digital Literacy Activities

Understanding the fundamentals of how to search for information is a key part of information and digital literacy, and there are many options for reinforcing those skills through class assignments. The example assignments below are intended to help students engage with information and think more deeply about how they use information in their class projects. If you have any questions about how these assignments can be used, feel free to reach out! 

Know-Want-How-Learned (KWHL) Chart

KWHL Chart

This activity asks students to reflect on the following questions before they begin searching: What do you already know about your topic? What do you want to know about your topic? How will you find information about your topic? What have you learned about your topic? 

It would encourage students to reflect before they do any searching, create a plan for how to find the information they need, and also describe what they've learned. It's set up as a chart, which might be less intimidating than asking them to write a reflection paper, and it could also be easily adapted for group work or a virtual environment. The linked version above is a Word document but could easily be converted into a Google doc or a Canvas discussion board post. 

It's licensed with a Creative Commons attribution license, so adaptation is allowed as long as the original author is credited as well. 

Tracing the Scholarly Conversation

Tracing the Scholarly Conversation Activity 

A piece of scholarly writing does not exist in a vacuum; it's both part of and contributing to a larger scholarly conversation. This activity's stated purpose is to prompt students to "learn how to trace the scholarly conversation on a topic, using references and cited by tools to find previous and more recent works related to a specific source." 

In addition to the activity described in the link above, students can also analyze a source's structure in terms of how sources are used. For example, in a few paragraphs of a literature review, a writer might cite 20 different sources - why? How are the sources being used? What points are the sources being used to support? As a bonus, students would likely get a little familiar with IEEE citations, at least the general principles of an in-text citation pointing to a reference in a reference list.

Database Search Log / Research Journal

Database Search Log 

A database search log gives you a place to keep track of the search terms you used, where you searched, and your reflections on how helpful the search was. Having this information not only helps you develop better searches but also helps you save time by not repeating ineffective searches. It's especially helpful for group work so that group members can build on each other's work. 

For students, keeping a record of their searches doesn't guarantee that they won't just stop at the surface level once they've found some information that kind of works, but it does set up the expectation that they won't just do one search and take the first few articles they find. Keeping a search log helps emphasize that searching is an iterative process.   

Research Journal 

In addition to keeping a database search log, students could also keep a research journal where they are both consciously keeping track of their searches / results and reflecting on their process and what they are learning along the way. This journal could be submitted periodically throughout the semester. It could be used in both individual and group contexts, and having the students submit their research journals throughout the process of doing a project would likely lessen the chance that they would just write the whole journal at the end.