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Information Literacy: Narrowing a Topic and Basic Searching Lessons

Topic development


Students will construct questions around a given topic
Students will prioritize questions that will be most helpful in developing their research topic
Students will explain the value in generating multiple questions around their research topic
Students will modify questions to develop and refine a research statement

Lesson Summary:

Librarian will present the class with a topic or statement related to their research assignment. After explaining the rules for producing questions, the class will break into small groups and spend several minutes producing as many questions as possible. The librarian will then guide groups through analyzing and modifying their questions and students will prioritize which questions will be most helpful in creating a research topic. Each group will share aloud how they modified their questions during the workshop, their priority questions, and during what part of the process they created their priority questions. This will demonstrate the value of brainstorming and considering many questions while trying to decide on and refine a research topic. Students will then use a topic focusing worksheet to develop their questions into research statements.


Creating a Concept Map


  • Students will learn how to create a concept map
  • Students will analyze and break down their topics into categories to help them better organize their research
  • Students will analyze connections between topics and subtopics and decide if there are other possible associations between topics and subtopics

Lesson summary:

Librarian will go over the instructions for the concept map, such as what is a main topic, what are subtopics and sub-subtopics etc. After going over the different components of a concept map, the students will create their own concept map for 10 - 15 minutes. After 10 - 15 minutes, each student will partner with another student to review each other’s concept maps. After listening to each other’s concept map, each student will ask their partner two questions about the connections made between topics. This will help the students detect any confusing aspects of their topics as well as any other possible connections they might have overlooked.

Source: Burkhardt, J. M. (2016). Teaching information literacy reframed: 50+ framework-based exercises for creating information-literate learners. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman, an imprint of the American Library


Introduction to databases


  • Students will learn that different databases cover different subjects
  • Students will learn how to use filters to help refine their results.
  • Students will learn the difference between a discovery search versus a specific database.

Lesson Summary:

Librarian will break the class up into groups or pairs. Each group would be given one of two handouts. Each handout has the same exact search terms but students will either go to a specific database or use the discovery search box on the library homepage. Working in their groups, students will work on the handout and record their results. Then once all the groups have completed, a person or team will go up and show the rest of the class how they searched on their database. As the students review their results, the librarian will record them to show the comparison between the two types of databases. The class will then be acquainted with different databases using the same search terms to fully understand their capabilities.

Source: Burkhardt, J. M. (2016). Teaching information literacy reframed: 50+ framework-based exercises for creating information-literate learners. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman, an imprint of the American Library Association


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