Advice from a Librarian: Information Literacy Instruction

Contributed by:

Svetla Baykoucheva
Chemistry and Life Sciences Librarian at the University of Maryland College Park

Svetla holds a MS in Chemistry, a PhD in Microbiology, and a library degree. Her current research interests focus on information literacy, management of scientific information, and scientific communication.


Information Literacy Instruction for Undergraduate and Graduate Science Courses

The advances in technologies, together with increased expectations from higher education, present challenges to science librarians, as they need to adjust to the changing needs of students and instructors. Collaborating with teaching faculty to integrate information literacy instruction in science courses is of major importance for science librarians, if they want to keep their leadership role in educating students how to use the science resources and manage the information they retrieve from them (Baykoucheva, 2015a) .

This article suggests topics that can be included in information literacy instruction in undergraduate and graduate science courses. Such topics were covered in a large-scale science information literacy program implemented at the University of Maryland College Park. Introduced in 32 small (20-60 students) and large (100-850 students) courses, this program educated more than 6,000 students how to find, filter, and manage scientific information using bibliographic management tools such as EndNote and Zotero. This blended program required preparing many instructional materials, handouts, and online assignments, which were posted on a LibGuide page prepared for each course (Figure 1). More details about the design and the implementation of this program can be found in previous publications (Baykoucheva, 2015b; Baykoucheva, Houck, & White, 2016).

Figure 1 libguide page for information literacy instruction

Figure 1. LibGuide page for information literacy instruction in an organic chemistry course at the University of Maryland, College Park. The LibGuide was viewed 41,193 times in 2016.

Topics for information literacy instruction in undergraduate chemistry courses:

  • Searching for and filtering scientific literature in major science databases (Google Scholar, PubMed, SciFinder, Scopus, and Web of Science)
  • Exporting references retrieved from the databases to a bibliographic management program (EndNote Online, Zotero).
  • Finding properties of chemical compounds using chemical names, molecular formula, structure and reaction searching using PubChem, ChemSpider, Reaxys, and SciFinder (Figure 2)
  • Inserting citations from a bibliographic management program into Word documents
  • Managing data (Electronic Laboratory Notebooks, ELNs)
  • Scientific ethics (plagiarism and scientific fraud)

Figure 2. Instructions on performing structure searching in SciFinder for an undergraduate chemistry course.

Figure 3. Instructions on performing reaction searching in Reaxys for an organic chemistry course.

Topics for information literacy instruction in courses for new science graduate students in chemistry and biochemistry:

  • Advanced techniques for efficient searching for literature in major science databases (Google Scholar, PubMed, SciFinder, Scopus, Web of Science)
  • Finding properties of chemical compounds using chemical names, molecular formula, structure and reaction searching in SciFinder, Reaxys, CRC Handbook of Chemistry & Physics, Knovel reference books
  • Using bibliographic management programs (EndNote Online, Mendeley, Papers, and Zotero) to export and organize references retrieved from databases and insert citations in Word documents
  • Scientific writing (research vs review papers; elements of a research paper; inserting citations from bibliographic management programs in Word documents)
  • Data management (types of research data, data curation, data preservation, archiving, and storage, data standards, citing data, data management plans, data sharing, data repositories, ELNs, Benefits of using ELNs, Types of ELNs, Choosing an ELN)
  • Measuring academic impact (Journal Impact Factor (IF), Altmetrics, Google Scholar citations, h-Index)
  • Academic and other social networks (Academia.edu, Google Scholar profile)
  • Unique identifiers: CAS Registry Number, ORCID, ResearcherID, Scopus author tools
  • Scientific communication and publication models
  • Scientific ethics: Types of scientific misconduct (prior publication, plagiarism, submitting the same article to different journals, data or image falsification or manipulation, authorship ethics, conflict of interest)

Assessment of student learning using online assignments:

  • Online assessment programs: SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics
  • Detailed instructions are included in the questions to help students repeat what they were shown in face-to-face instruction sessions and practice using the resources at their own pace
  • Student learning is evaluated both as a group and individually
  • Students export references from a database to a bibliographic management program (EndNote or Zotero) and create a bibliography with the exported references. They have to copy the bibliography and paste it in a box in the assessment program
  • Students write a paragraph and insert citations in a Word document using EndNote or Zotero; then they copy the paragraph and paste it in a box in the assignment.
  • Assignment results are shared with the instructors through a web link
  • Obtain feedback from students about the instruction and the assignment questions
  • Results from the assignment are exported to an Excel spreadsheet and sorted by course section number, for grading; the grade is part of the overall grade of the student for the course

Figure 4. Screen capture from SurveyMonkey of responses from 838 students in an organic chemistry course to a question requiring structure searching in Reaxys.

References

Baykoucheva, S. (2015a). Managing scientific information and research data. Kidlington, UK: Chandos Publishing (an Imprint of Elsevier).

Baykoucheva, S. (2015b). Science information literacy and the role of academic librarians Managing Scientific Information and Research Data (1st ed., pp. 43-63). Kidlington, UK: Chandos Publishing (an Imprint of Elsevier).

Baykoucheva, S., Houck, J. D., & White, N. (2016). Integration of EndNote Online in Information Literacy Instruction Designed for Small and Large Chemistry Courses. Journal of Chemical Education, 93(3), 470-476. doi:10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00515


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