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The Most Overlooked Skill in Information Literacy Instruction

I’ve been thinking a lot about information literacy for law students lately, and this post from Designer Librarian really struck a cord!

Designer Librarian

How is it that a student can find and use research-quality information sources and still produce a mediocre research paper? Poor writing skills? Maybe…probably. There’s another factor in play too. Ask yourself this. How much time do you spend on teaching students strategies for evaluating their information needs? Not evaluating information sources, evaluating information needs.

Identifying information needs is the first step in the whole research process. Yet, we tend to gloss over that skill and focus on finding and evaluating information sources. It doesn’t help that classroom instructors create assignment “recipes” (e.g. 4 peer-reviewed articles, 1 website). And students follow those recipes. Either that, or they make the assumption that anything that appears relevant in their database search results will meet their information needs. That’s because they don’t know what their information needs are! And because they haven’t explicitly identified their information needs, their database searching techniques are less focused…

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I am the Assistant Director for Public Services at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law. My research interests include exploring how emerging and existing technologies can be used to enhance library services and legal education as well as how to address knowledge gaps and meet the educational expectations of today's law students.

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