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The University of Iowa

Fall 2011


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UI class teaches students how to locate, evaluate, and use information in a college setting

When Kanithia Looney, a sophomore from Chicago, Ill., arrived at The University of Iowa last fall, writing an academic research paper was a new and daunting task.

"I didn't know how to conduct research well," Looney says. "I would have been devastated if I were asked to do a research paper."

It's not an unusual predicament.

Books on table"Many students are very good at using Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but they don't understand concepts that academics use to decide how and when to use specific resources," says Jim Elmborg, associate professor in the UI School of Library and Information Science.

Professors across the University, however, expect students to know those concepts.

So, to bridge that knowledge gap, the School of Library and Information Science offers Information Handling, a 3-credit-hour course that introduces students to basic information-literacy concepts, such as understanding a university library; formulating a research topic; choosing and evaluating scholarly sources; and understanding information ethics like plagiarism, copyright, and open access publishing. The course is open to undergraduates from any major.

"We want students to really understand how to use information in their academic work," says Elmborg. "Information is around us in various forms. We need to be critical about that information. Academic research involves very specific kinds of information that must be used in very specific ways. In this class, we hope to teach students to be successful handlers of information."

In the course, students choose a research topic that interests them, then find three books about that topic and discuss the significance of their authors, publication dates, and call numbers. During the process, they conduct research about their topic. They use this information when creating a blog about the topic, which serves as their final project.

Looney and John DeMars, a sophomore from Iowa City, were among 15 students who took the course last spring.

"The course shows you how to use the library system to your advantage," DeMars says. "I'm more prepared now that I've taken this course."

Currently, Iowa offers one section of the course each semester, but more sections may be added.



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