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Information Literacy Toolkit: IL for Classroom Exercises

Teaching, Learning & Assessment

Element 1 - Determines the Extent of the Information Needed

-Defines the scope of the research question, or hypothesis, or thesis effectively.
-Identifies all relevant key concepts or main ideas that determine the extent of the information needed.

Suggested classroom exercises to focus on developing student IL competencies when initially organizing their projects:

-Students review instructor-provided or authorized background resources such as encyclopedias and Web sites to explore and identify significant and relevant concepts, theories, and discipline-related terms. Sharing and discussion follows.

-Small groups of students create concept maps of research topics under consideration. Alternately, individual student can concept map their topic and share with others for peer review and reflection.

-Students review and discuss which library databases they might choose for a particular research topic and how these databases relate and support the topic at hand. For instance, a topic on global warming might consider a science, business, political or social sciences database. Ask students to name  specific databases and to describe how the database can help to answer the research questions developed.

-Starting with a significant event (or topic) within a field of study or contemporary current events, students brainstorm a timeline of what has happened leading up to the event. This could help students identify what they need to know in order to research the event or topic in a more complete manner.

Element 2 - Accessess the Needed Information

Accesses information using effective, well-designed search strategies and most relevant information sources.

-Students work in teams to develop lists of significant meaningful search terms to design search strategies (Think-Pair-Share) for a given research question. Design and execute database searches and critique the results.

-Using one well-constructed search strategy, compare items retrieved by searches using either two different search engines or library databases.  Identify what type of material is found in each resource, consider, for instance, date coverage, depth of coverage, discipline focus, format of materials, etc.

-Using one well-constructed search strategy, search for information sources in the library catalog, a library database, and a search engine. Identify differences (see above) and discuss when each format is most appropriate/applicable.

-Search the URI Libraries Search by keyword. Fine tune the search to find "best" information sources. Read the catalog record information for the "best" sources noting dates, subject headings, and content notes. Re-do search using the new "clues" and compare this search with original search. Which is more effective?

Element 3 - Critically Evaluate Information and its Sources

-Critically Evaluates Information and its Sources
-Selects and applies all relevant evaluation criteria of information sources: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose

-Students search a Web search engine and library database for a specific topic or research question. Compare and contrast results using evaluation criterion.

-Locate and evaluate the “best” and “worst” web site on a topic using the evaluative criteria. Describe and evaluate each site, explaining why the “best” is research worthy and how the “worst” won its dubious award.

Element 4 - Uses Information Effectively to Accomplish a Specific Purpose

Organizes, communicates, and integrates/synthesizes information from sources to fully achieve a specific purpose, with clarity and depth.

-Debate pro/con on a hot button topic. Students develop debate and also submit annotated bibliography of evaluated sources to support their position.

-Role-play two sides of a controversial topic. Each side must  provide a memo to the manager supported with authoritative sources to support  their view.

-Create a poster session for your research topic. Be prepared to share your findings in a three minute presentation supported by a short paper and bibliography.

-Present a brief persuasive “elevator speech” supported by a short paper and bibliography.

-Compare and contrast primary and secondary sources:

  • Have the students find reporting on a study in a popular magazine and then have them find the actual study or
  • Have the students investigate a media topic back to the source or
  • Have the students choose an autobiography and then locate secondary sources.

Element 5 - Uses Information Ethically and Legally

Demonstrates understanding of the difference between common knowledge and information requiring attribution most of the time.

-Clicker game/exercise using generic or discipline-specific examples to help students identify common knowlege or citable information.


Always includes paraphrases, summaries, and quotes in the text appropriately and accurately without distorting original intent.

-Students read an article or passage from the literature of the course content area. Instructor provides samples of correctly and incorrectly paraphrased, quoted, statements from the article or passage. Students identify which statements are correctly paraphrased or quoted. Recommend suggestions for correcting the statements with errors.


Uses and formats citations and references correctly

-Be specific when assigning a citation style. Provide examples.

-Students work in pairs to practice writing citations in required style for a particular assignment or course.  Instructor follows up with class to share results and discuss any questions.

-Give two pairs of students the same citation. Students can compare their results as a group and finalize the correct citation based on their consultations.

-Small groups of students receive pack of index cards. Each index card contains one element, word, term, or punctuation mark from a properly formatted citation.  Students practice putting the puzzle together.  For added fun, give the same citation to two groups and have students compete in a timed contest. 

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