Identifying Scholarly Articles Chart

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Sometimes, differentiating between different types of sources when researching can be challenging. This handy chart identifies some of the key characteristics of scholarly, trade, and popular articles. The chart can be found and downloaded HERE. I adapted this chart from a version found on the Keene Info Lit Bank Blog.

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SEER – A New Interactive Internet Source Evaluation Tool from Turnitin

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GET SEER

For my librarian colleagues:

Do you know how, as academic librarians, we are constantly talking to students about the importance of using credible academic sources? Come on, I know you feel my pain! How many times a day do we say “you need to find SCHOLARLY, PEER-REVIEWED SOURCES” or “Wikipedia is not a reliable source”?!?

Turnitin, the company who provides a plagiarism prevention and online grading resource for students and educators has developed an open access tool dubbed SEER (The Source Educational Evaluation Rubric). According to Turnitin, SEER was developed by working with educators to create “an interactive rubric to analyze and grade the academic quality of Internet sources used by students in their writing” (source). There are five criteria that SEER uses to assign a score to a source: Authority, Educational Value, Intent, Originality, and Quality. YES! That means students and faculty alike would have a way to verify the validity of an online source.

I’ve only recently discovered this tool and have requested the white paper on it to learn more about their development process. Once I have played around with SEER, I will be sure to report back! If you’re interested in learning more about SEER, click here, or to see it in action, click here.

GET SEER

Information Literacy in the “REAL WORLD”

IL in Education ????????

We already know that Information Literacy (IL) is a hot topic in higher education. It’s not a random term that academic librarians created to push their own agendas in the academic realm. It’s a real issue that goes beyond the concept of basic literacy (i.e. reading, writing, and arithmetic) and is closely tied to the idea of digital literacy, as it goes hand-in-hand with IL to a certain degree.

“Information Literacy is not a random term that academic librarians created to push their own agendas in the academic realm…”

Many academic institutions have recognized the importance of IL and have woven the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education into their curricula. The role that academic librarians play is that we are proponents of information literacy. We dedicate time to instructing students (in the classroom, one-on-one, on the Web) about IL. We also work to inform teaching faculty about IL and how to incorporate it into their instruction so that there is a link between the concepts taught by librarians and how students use information in their classes.

IL in the “Real World”

What students don’t often realize (or they just aren’t looking that far into the future) is that having information literacy skills does not apply to education alone. It’s not a “library term”. Once they graduate and begin to make their way in the world, they will soon find that many employers are looking for job candidates who know how to effectively find, evaluate, and utilize information so they will be proficient doing so in their careers.

When we’re out in the “real world” (the reality that exists beyond our relatively sheltered college experience), our daily lives depend on how we process and use information. We use information at our jobs, when researching where we’d like to go on vacation, when trying to decide who to vote for in an election, when looking to buy a house, etc. So when I say that IL skills are necessary beyond the realm of academia, this is what I’m talking about. Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New House

“We use information at our jobs, when researching where we’d like to go on vacation, when trying to decide who to vote for in an election, when looking to buy a house, etc…”

Knowing when information is needed and knowing how to find reliable information is what allows a first-time homebuyer to do their research and to learn that there are counseling programs and other incentives for those who are new to homebuying. This same research know-how allows consumers to make informed decisions when they go to apply for a mortgage or refinance a property they already own.

IL skills allow an individual to recognize when information is misleading or downright misinformation. Say you were traveling to a foreign country that you know very little about, hoping to have a relaxing vacation. You found a person’s travel blog, and though they sound very knowledgeable about said country, you cannot find this person’s credentials. So how do you know the information can be trusted? You don’t.

“You soon find out that the exotic-looking hotel the blogger raved about hasn’t been updated in about a decade and has bugs the size of your fist that sleep with you at night…”

So instead of looking for a more authoritative site through a verified travel agency or another source, you take the person’s blog at face value. You arrive at your destination and soon find out that the exotic-looking hotel the blogger raved about hasn’t been updated in about a decade and has bugs the size of your fist that sleep with you at night. Yep, better learn to verify your information sources. That isn’t to say that you can never believe what you read on a blog or from another source that doesn’t have verifiable credentials. It simply means that IL skills will make it possible for you to evaluate information before deciding to put your faith in it.

These are just a few basic examples of why possessing information literacy skills is important in real-world applications. But there are plenty of more serious circumstances an individual might find themselves in where those IL skills might mean the difference between landing (or keeping) a job or applying for a home mortgage from a trusted source as opposed to the predatory lender.

Wikipedia: Not a Credible Source, but a Jumping Off Point for Research

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MY LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH WIKIPEDIA

WIKIPEDIA…some people love it, many educators hate it. As an academic librarian, I would have to say that my feelings tend to sway between love and hate. Here is why. Wikipedia is highly used by students of all ages. It’s popularity ranking in search engines is astronomical, which is why a Wikipedia listing is often one of the first results retrieved using a search engine. Students find a good snapshot of information on a particular topic when searching Wikipedia, just as they would when using a traditional print encyclopedia. Because of this, it serves as a great jumping off point for research. Which is why I sometimes love it. Yet, the information found on Wikipedia has not been verified for reliability. Though many students often cite from it anyway, and often use it as a primary source. Which is why I also hate it.

TERTIARY SOURCES

Just as encyclopedias are considered tertiary sources (as opposed to primary or secondary), so is Wikipedia. Wikipedia itself freely admits HERE that it is not considered a credible or authoritative source and that it should be used as a tertiary source. Tertiary sources  “consist of information which is a distillation and collection of primary and secondary sources” (source) and include: dictionaries, encyclopedias, almanacs, bibliographies, manuals, textbooks, and more. See my post on Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources in order to learn more about the distinction between these sources of information.

INFORMATION ON WIKIPEDIA NOT VERIFIED

It is a known fact that anyone, at any time can add and edit information in almost any article on Wikipedia. While the concept of having a community application where anyone can contribute and share information is a great idea, it is Wikipedia’s greatest downfall from an academic standpoint. This is why many educators prohibit students from citing articles on Wikipedia. There is no guarantee that the information that is credible. Wikipedia admits that not everything on their website is “accurate, comprehensive, or unbiased” (source).  Wikipedia does not employ a process of peer review, as all academic journals do with their articles prior to publication. If you’re going to use Wikipedia, then use it to gain a foundation of basic information about your topic. Using that information, come up with a list of specific keywords or subject terms that you can use in online research databases (see below for more information).

A JUMPING OFF POINT FOR RESEARCH

As a librarian, I often tell students to use Wikipedia and search engines such as Google strictly as jumping off points for research. That’s ok! Just remember that you need to dig deeper. If you find a source on the internet (website, blog, etc.) be sure to evaluate the source before using the information. Does the author have verifiable credentials? Can you see that he/she is an expert in the field they are discussing on the website? Do you see that they have cited from other authoritative sources in their research? If so, then it is probably safe to use it as a source.

SCHOLARLY JOURNALS AND ONLINE RESEARCH DATABASES

I recommend using scholarly journals and online research databases (EBSCOhost, ProQuest, Springer, and many more) to guarantee that you’re finding reliable, scholarly information on your research topic. The articles within scholarly journals have underdone a process of peer review in which the author’s peers (other experts in the field) have reviewed the information for accuracy before the article can be published. Research databases contain many scholarly journals and other sources. These databases allow you to select a limiter that will search only within scholarly/peer-reviewed sources. Databases may seem daunting to use at first, but it’s simply a matter of trial and error. Use specific keywords and subject terms and make the various features of the databases work for you, rather than against you. Check out this short 5 minute video I created on Quick Tips & Shortcuts for Database Searching.

Information Literacy Infographic – Mind-Boggling Facts

I found this infographic on EasyBibs website and I just had to share. Those who initially thought that the concept of information literacy was just a passing fad are sure to be shocked to see just how much there is a need for information literacy programming in education today. Many colleges and universities have integrated information literacy into their curricula in one way or another, using the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards as their guide. HOWEVER, there are many institutions of higher education that have not. All you have to do is take a look at the statistics in this infographic to see how important information literacy is. Students must learn how to seek out, analyze, and use information effectively in the academic arena, so that they are prepared to used information in the right way in their careers and in the real world beyond graduation.

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Image Credit: EasyBib

NEW VIDEO: Quick Tips & Shortcuts for Database Searching

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This latest installment of my instructional video series, From the Memoirs of a Modern Librarian, covers concepts related to searching within academic research databases, using EBSCO’s Academic Search Complete and ProQuest Central as examples. Concepts covered are: using the advanced search, limiters, Boolean operators, citing from a database, and other features. The video offers a number of tips and shortcuts for making database searching a bit easier and more effective. 

I will be using this video in a number of ways to help show college age students how to research more efficiently. It can be used in a learning module on LibGuides, a video channel on a library website, on blogs, and in other settings. These instructional videos are great learning resources, as they incorporate visual elements, sound, and text, in order to appeal to diverse styles of learning. A lot of movement is used in order to draw the viewer’s eye and keep them engaged. These videos are brief (approximately 3-6 minutes each) in order to provide a lot of information in a short amount of time. The brevity of the videos helps those who struggle with focusing or are easily distracted.

This video is protected by a Creative Commons license and should not be altered in any way. Please give attribution if you would like to share or link to this video.

New Library Website Launched Spring 2012

This year, my biggest project has been creating a new user-friendly website for Clearwater Christian College’s Easter Library. The new website contains all of the information that students need to effectively conduct research, all in one place. One of the great features the site has is the integrated “Chat with a Librarian” feature, powered by Zoho Chat. This allows students (or faculty) to ask a question and chat in real time with a librarian, which is especially useful for our online graduate students and commuters who don’t have the convenience of just coming into the library for assistance. The website also contains a subject guide for each of the college’s academic disciplines. The subject guides serve as jumping off points for a student’s research. Each guide contains information for how to locate print and online resources specific to that subject. Recommended resources and books are also featured on each guide. The homepage of the website (seen below) features new books that have been recently added to the library’s collections, news about book sales and other events, the library’s hours, a widget that allows you to search the library’s online catalog, and more. The library’s new website serves as an information gateway for CCC’s students, faculty, and staff. Any questions concerning the website can be directed to me at vanessaslagle@clearwater.edu.

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What is Information Literacy? No, really…what IS it?

I sometimes feel that the concept of “information literacy” is thrown around or referred to a lot in conversation, but sometimes people don’t REALLY know what it means or how relevant it is. I have observed that even academics don’t have a firm grasp on it’s definition or even recognize that MANY students struggle with information literacy issues on a daily basis. This can make the college experience a lot more challenging.

So what IS information literacy? As it is defined by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), information literacy is the “set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information” (source). Alright, let’s look at the first element: finding information. I am astounded  that in this day and age, a college student can step foot into a library (which can be a rare occurrence in and of itself) and NOT know how to look up a book, let alone find it on the shelf. This is the first stumbling block for many students in higher education. I have noticed that many faculty out in the world actually ASSUME that a student coming to college should already possess these skills. Well, I have news. Many of them DON’T. Never presume to think that a student coming straight out of high school had to ever visit their school’s library or media center, and if they did, that it was a place that taught them the skills needed to succeed when it comes to information gathering and analysis. Now, there is the rare exception of the student who was fortunate enough to attend a school system that actually equipped them with the much-needed skills needed to navigate a complex world of information and resources, but it IS rare. Okay people, this aspect of information literacy should not be news to anyone. We KNOW that students are often loathe to darken the doorstep of a library, let alone know how to access the plethora of information that is contained within.

On to the next element, retrieving information. As I mentioned before, students often do not know how to utilize a library’s system of organization in order to retrieve the information that is sitting somewhere on a shelf. Okay, now I’m not expecting them to memorize or understand the classifications or what a Cutter number is, but they SHOULD know how to read a call number and find it on the shelf OR look up an item in the online catalog for that matter. Moving on, a BIG aspect of finding and retrieving information today is very dependent upon DIGITAL LITERACY. Information literacy and digital literacy go hand-in-hand. Today, many resources (books, journals, reports, images, maps, charts, and more) are indexed and housed in online research databases. Thus, a student must not only know how to confidently use the computer, but they MUST know how to effectively use these databases to their full potential. Here’s some more news, many of them DON’T. That is a HUGE problem. Many types and forms of information are either being published online or digitized for preservation and placed online. Many of the databases contain this information in full-text, meaning that the article, book, etc. is online and accessible in its entirety. Many students don’t know how to formulate the right keywords to search these databases effectively, or to select only full-text and/or scholarly, peer-reviewed sources. Some students don’t really understand what “peer review” means or why they should search for information that has undergone this process.

Next, the element of analyzing information becomes yet another stumbling block. While many students understand the concepts behind scholarly versus popular sources of information, again, there are many who don’t. Not long ago, I witnessed a student who had an article analysis handed back to him during the first weeks of classes because he had not properly selected and analyzed a SCHOLARLY article. Instead, he went for the easy route and chose a short, 2-paged “article”. Unfortunately, the student found out after coming into the library asking for help, that the article was really a short editorial found in a journal online. It was not a solid, scholarly research article based on previous studies that contained citations and a references page. It was an editorial. BIG difference. And NOT what the professor was looking for. The thing of it is, situations such as that one are avoidable. Academic libraries and academic librarians exist to not only support faculty and the curriculum of a school, college, or university, but they are also here to show students how to easily maneuver these roadblocks that I’m referring to. We have skills, experience, tips, suggestions, patience, and more! Quite frankly, we are often a largely untapped resource. We can show students how to find information, retrieve it, analyze it, cite it, and more.

When it comes to using information, this involves skills that are taught in an English class, where students learn how to synthesize information effectively. However, librarians can guide students when it comes to avoiding plagiarism, accessing and using citation guidelines, creating works cited or reference pages, and more.

Now, all of this is not my way of saying that ALL students are clueless about finding and using information effectively. That’s not true at all. Instead, I am talking about what I have observed and the role that faculty play in all of that. It is the RESPONSIBILITY of faculty (professors and librarians alike) to assess whether or not students are struggling in any of these areas. Though many may not show the signs outwardly, you would be surprised how many students struggle silently. Furthermore, A LOT of students hesitate to ask their professor or a librarian for help. They are either too shy, don’t want to look stupid for asking what is really a legitimate question, or some other reason. So they don’t ask for help. Or maybe they don’t realize that they can and that we’re here to help.

A research paper or project can look like Mt. Everest if you’re not fully equipped with the skills needed to conduct research. Faculty have the responsibility to never assume that their students know all that they need to know in order to write papers and do projects effectively. We also need to keep in mind that graduate school or doctoral work may be in the future of many of these students and that they should be prepared. NONE of our students should be leaving the doors of our institution without possessing the skills listed in the definition of information literacy: ” the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information”. At the end of the day, we want students to SUCCEED. Are we doing all that we can to help them?

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Easter Library is now on Meebo!

I have just setup a Meebo account for the Easter Library at CCC. Meebo is an instant messaging platform that allows users to chat with the library regardless of whether they are using AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN, ICQ, Facebook, and more. The chat is intended to connect students to the library from their dorm, home, etc., for the purpose of asking questions about research, help with navigating the online research databases, questions about print materials located in the library, requests for research consultations, and so much more. Please spread the word regarding this new endeavor by the Easter Library to reach out to the students at CCC and beyond! Our screen name is: Easter Library. Have a question? Ask a librarian using Meebo!

Easter Library Facebook Page

Be sure to check out Easter Library’s new Facebook page and like us to stay up-to-date on news, research related topics, new and recommended resources, information about our online databases, and a lot more! Keep an eye out for these new flyers with QR codes that will link you directly to Easter Library’s new Facebook page via your smartphone. Free QR code reader apps are available.

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