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Incorporating Information Literacy Into Oberlin First Year Seminars

This guide is intended to help Oberlin faculty teaching first year seminars incorporate information literacy.

Authority is Constructed and Contextual

"Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required." (Framework for Information Literacy)

Discussion Topics

  • What is the difference between a popular source and scholarly source? What kind of authority do the authors of scholarly sources have? Are there circumstances in which the author of a popular source could have more authority than the author of a scholarly source? 
  • What is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source? What kind of authority do primary sources have? 
  • What is the publication process like for news reporting? How can you distinguish news reporting from opinion content? Which perspectives have often been excluded from news content? 
  • How can the reputation of a particular individual or publication be a tool for identifying fake news?


  • Have students compare and contrast two pieces of content on the same topic written by authors with different kinds of authority (e.g. a scholarly article and a primary source, a piece of social science research and a reflection from a member of a population described in the research, etc.) 

Scholarship as Conversation

"Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations." (Framework for Information Literacy)

Discussion Topics

  • What is the purpose of scholarly research? Are there avenues besides scholarly research where scholars advance knowledge? 
  • Identify barriers to entry for people trying to participate in a scholarly conversation. 
  • What is the purpose of incorporating the work of other scholars in writing?
  • What is the purpose of citation? 


  • Compare and contrast two pieces of writing with different interpretations of the same topic or evidence. The pieces might vary in the time they were published, the publication process used, the theory or methods they use to answer the research question, or the specific evidence they draw on. 
  • Investigate the citations used in a piece of writing. (This can mean formal citations in scholarship, or practices such as hyperlinking in popular writing.) 
    • Annotate citations using the BEAM (Background, Evidence Argument, Method) framework for classifying citations according to their function in writing. 
    • Use citation tracing to determine if a work accurately describes the research it cites. 
  • Read and discuss a source that summarizes scholarship and current debates in a field (e.g. literature review, annual review, meta-analysis, bibliographic essay, historiography, book review, high quality encyclopedia article, etc.). 

Research as Inquiry

"Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field." (Framework for Information Literacy)

Discussion Topics

  • Present a complex research paper topic with several parts. Have students break it down into subtopics. 
  • Present a research question, and have students suggest disciplines or research methods that would be useful for answering the question. 


  • Read an article, and identify new avenues for future research suggested by the article's conclusions. 
  • Compare and contrast two sources, one of which builds on research begun in the other. 
  • Analyze the citations used in a source for bias or gaps.