Wednesday 10 July 2013

'I can get it all for free on Google, yeah?' Russell Burke from Royal Holloway University on information literacy

Russell Burke, Information Consultant
At Royal Holloway University, they spend a lot of time coaching and training potential and current students on information literacy. Russell Burke, an Information Consultant there, outlined what they cover and who they train.

At Royal Holloway they provide training tailored to subject department needs. They cover pre-sessional and sixth formers as well as undergraduates from first to third years. They also train postgraduates including taught masters and PhD researchers and graduate skills. They work with staff although there are varying degrees of engagement between departments. Embedded training is used as well as IS and one-to-one sessions.

Practical sessions are delivered that focus on hands-on activities, using the online resources themselves, and use of more interactive and visual tools such as:

  • Prezi
  • Video tutorials (in-house and YouTube)
  • Online VLE training and quizes using moodle
  • Group work
  • exploring the use of games and gaming 

An example information literacy session for first year undergraduates would include: finding items on your reading lists; developing a search strategy; online resources and services - LibrarySearch, Web of Knowlege, MLA International; searching information sources - hints and tips; citation and referencing - RefWorks; accessing online resources off campus; and using other libraries.

They also help students with finding material on reading lists through their online reading list system, the Moodle (VLE), via handouts (for vintage academics!), and via LibrarySearch. Often, students are thrown when it comes to book chapters as they are so used to searching digitally for journals articles. So they also provide an example of reference to a book. Getting them to think about their essay question or research topic is also covered. The focus is on what they need to find out and searching for information - you can't just type in your essay title. Students are encouraged to ask what it is they are looking for, to think around the topic, and to consider what the essential terms they will need to search for.

Guidance is provided on developing a search strategy. Identify keywords that define your research question. Select relevant information sources. Evaluate and modify your searches and select and save results, then locate copies of promising texts.

Analysing and evaluating information is also crucial. You need a critical evaluation of information sources:

  • Origin - where is your information from? Can you get access to the online full text or print material?
  • Content - is it an academic journal? A published book, a newspaper or a public website or a blog?
  • Relevance - read the abstract (summary) so they know it's relevant.

With citation and referencing, students are guided to acknowledge the author of the source. This will enable the item to be traced (by their lecturer, something most students pick up on first). But it also shows evidence of the scope and depth of your research. Then they have to understand the appropriate reference style (layout etc). They cover legal issues such as plagiarism - something that is incredibly important to the institution - and then provide guidance on selecting and saving results and full text.

Fancy a game?

Other issues that are covered relate to RefWorks: bibliographic management software; capturing, saving and organising references; how to access it via the e-reousrces or an A-Z list; and how to access online self-help tutorials. They also teach them about the various different systems and standards, of which there are many!

Burke closed with a useful tip: they use gaming as an icebreaker for students. It works to engage and present information in a more digestible form and helps with newer students.


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