I try to do all the right information literacy “stuff”: active learning, hands-on work, positive attitude, etc… I also make sure I’m prepped for class at least a day before. Yesterday, I decided to throw my lesson plan in the garbage.
The professor emailed me late: Students have been gathering sources from Facebook and blogs and not evaluating what they find. Probably not a big shock to most librarians, but the professor was concerned.
Two sections of an introductory 100-level psychology course work in groups to gather five scholarly, empirical research articles on a topic. The group writes a review of the articles and posts it on a course website.
A new lesson plan:
Why go right to the databases? Instead, start where students are most comfortable and then transition them to more authoritative sources. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about databases, but most of our students (at this point) don’t see the connection between everyday life and academic research.
I decide to comb Facebook, Buzzfeed, and Huffington Post to find articles that had a psychological theme–something students might come across while using social media. I jokingly tweeted:
Luckily, awesome Twitter library folks like @SJLeeman and @dupuisj chimed in with some examples they had:
Now I had a plan!
Dividing the class in to groups, I gave each group a popular topic relating to psychology:
1. Huffington Post article:
Hungry? Maybe Don’t Go Shopping: Academic research shows that people who are hungry purchase both food and non-food items at a higher rate than people who are not hungry.
2. Buzzfeed article:
Watch Six Pairs Stare in to Each Others’ Eyes as Love Experiment (also had a cute video which I showed a portion of in class): Academic research shows that staring into your partner’s eyes can increase intimacy levels.
3. A post that was popular on Facebook, shared by @SJLeeman:
Half of All Children Will Be Autistic by 2025: research by a MIT scientist.
Sharing the links with the class, I asked each group to read over the articles to become acquainted with the topic. Then I told them to see if they could locate the original research, starting with Google–something they are all familiar with. I stopped by each group to ask them questions and point them in the right direction. We concluded by having each group share what they found with the rest of the class.
For the Huffington Post article:
Students found that names of the original researchers mentioned, but they did not have a title of the original study or a link to it. An initial Google search didn’t find anything useful. Good segue into library databases.
For the Buzzfeed article:
Students found that it mentioned a replication of the academic study in The New York Times. The NYT article had the original researcher’s name, plus a link to the scholarly article. Clicking on the link to the article showed the students that access to it was provided by our library.
For the Facebook post on autism:
Students reported that the headline sounded shocking. They also said they were likely to trust an “expert” at an academic institution. Students found the original researcher’s name and Googled the person only to find that she’s controversial in the scientific community and not trained in the biological/medical field. Students also questioned if the organization that had the post about autism might be biased. They noticed other things on the website, including that vaccines may be “ineffective” or unsafe.
1. Every day we read, see, or hear about things that involve academic research–on almost any topic imaginable. We just have to do a little digging to get to that research.
2. Google and the general web is great as a starting point, but it shouldn’t be your ending point.
3. The blog posts and websites you find generally won’t be considered “academic” by your professors. You’re going to need to track down the original psychological studies.
4. You need to carefully evaluate the information you find on these sites. I mentioned the “CRAAP” test (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, point of view).
5. The library has databases to locate the original studies (e.g., PsycINFO). You can search by keyword, by article title, or by a particular author, etc… if you have that bit of info. In addition, only a couple of students in each section reported using Google Scholar before–so I made sure to mention that as an alternative tool to keep in your research “wheelhouse.”
6. We were able to look at the original empirical research article from the Buzzfeed example. Students were able to identify the basic set-up (e.g., abstract, methods, results, references, etc…). This was important as this is the type of scholarly article that students need to find for their project.
From there, we transitioned to the library’s resources: A quick demo of PsycINFO (and some of the other psychology resources) and how to formulate a search strategy: An active learning whiteboard activity where students take a psychology research question (such as from the examples above) and identity the keywords and brainstorm synonyms.
Following that, there was plenty of time for students to do searching in PsycINFO and other relevant sources to gather citations for their group project.
- Heidi Blackburn, Cynthia Dudenhöff, & Kate Wise. Oh, snap! Using Popular Culture to Reach Undergraduates in Library Instruction, Criss Library Faculty Proceedings & Presentations, January 2013.
- Jean Cook, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go: Using Unlikely Examples to Engage Students in Information Literacy, LOEX Quarterly, 2013.
- Nedra Peterson, It Came from Hollywood: Using Popular Media to Enhance Information Literacy Instruction, C&RL News, February 2010.
- Amy Springer & Kathryn Yelinek, Teaching with The Situation: Jersey Shore as a Popular Culture Example in Information Literacy Classes, C&RL News, February 2011.