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  • Information Literacy in the Sciences

    UNL 206X


    Quarter 1 Fall 2013


    Instructor:Irina Holden, Information Literacy and Science Outreach Librarian,

    Office: SL 241 (Science Library)

    Phone: (518) 437-3941


    Office Hours: Wednesday, 11:00 – 12:00 p.m. and by appointment


    Course: UNL 206X: Information Literacy in the Sciences

    Day and Time: Thursday 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Section # 5819

    Location: University Library, B48

    Course web page:

    Course blog:


    Course description:


    This is a one-credit, quarter course that fulfills the Information Literacy General Education requirement.  It meets one day a week for seven weeks.  Each class is two hours long.


    Information is an extremely necessary and valuable commodity in today’s world. Information is far more accessible than it ever was, and is generated by a far broader range of authors than ever before. Indeed, you yourself are an information producer, and you may be publishing some of this information publicly on the Web. Because of this incredible abundance, it is imperative to be able to efficiently find information and to critically assess and evaluate it and the sources in which it appears. In this course, you will interact with a broad range of information sources and strategies for finding information. Various case studies and examples from scientific, technical, and medical literature will be used to achieve this purpose.  You will learn about the flow of information in a variety of disciplines, particularly natural sciences, how to be effective at the research process, how to access information in a variety of formats, and how to formulate effective searches on electronic databases and the Internet.

    You will practice using your skills in the context of a team-based wiki on a science-related topic connected with information in today’s world. The course will also explore a wide range of ethical issues connected with finding and using scientific information, from plagiarism to the effects of technological access, not only to increase your exposure to different viewpoints, but also to empower you in your own decision making processes. UNL 206X meets the Information Literacy General Education requirement. Please see the end of the syllabus for more details.


    Professional Skills:


    When you leave this class, you will have gained or perfected the following skills that will be important in the workplace or in graduate school:


    ·         You will know where to look to find the information you need.  If you don’t know immediately, you will have strategies to determine where to look.

    ·         You will know that appropriate format, as well as creator and quality of the                information, will affect where you look.

    ·         You will have effective skills for finding the information you need, without wasting time.

    ·         In conjunction with the knowledge you gain in your major, you will be an effective evaluator of the information you find.  This will help you with your projects or reports.

    ·         You will be a good resource for others whose information finding skills are less developed.


    These skills will increase your value to employers, as well as your skills when researching job opportunities and preparing for interviews.


    Course Objectives and Competencies Expected:


    Upon completion of this course you should be able to:


    • Identify the effect that technology has had on information production and    dissemination.
    • Understand how sci-tech information is created, distributed, and used.
    • Describe a variety of information sources and tools you can use to access these information sources.
    • Develop an effective search strategy for finding information using access tools.
    • Identify and analyze the source, authority, and perspective of information sources.
    • Understand the difference between a research topic and a theses statement.  Be able to turn a topic into a thesis statement.
    • Apply knowledge of the APA (American Psychological Association) style by compiling a bibliography.  Know how to write critical annotations.
    • Discuss current issues relating to information policy.  Analyze the impact of these policies on information access for individuals and communities.
    • Be able to follow and keep up with science and technology in society.


    Student Responsibilities:


    Each student is expected to contribute to an environment conducive to the learning of all students.  This contribution includes, but is not limited to:

    ·                     Respecting the opinions of others

    ·                     Being prepared to participate actively, both in class as a whole, and in your team

    ·                     Taking responsibility for your learning and progress in the course

    ·                     Helping your team and the rest of the class to learn, and allowing others to help you learn

    ·                     Seeking help from the instructor as needed


    Students are responsible for knowing and following the policies listed below.  Students are also responsible for knowing and following the University policies outlined in the Undergraduate Bulletin (


    Instructional Methods:


    This course will incorporate active learning techniques and will require a high level of student participation. Teams will be established on the first day of class, and will work together throughout the course. Preparation for class material will take place before class, and several times during the quarter, I will be giving Readiness Assessment Tests (RATs), to check your preparation for class. These tests first will be taken individually (iRATs), and then together as a team (tRATs). Students will be responsible for taking part in class and team discussions. The class participation will be graded and then incorporated into your final course grade.


    Class readings, handouts and other supplementary materials will be available through Blackboard.


    Because of the structure of the course and your team’s reliance upon every member, you need to attend regularly in order to do well.



    Class Policies:

    1. Class attendance:


    i.      Readiness assessment tests are generally given at the beginning of class, and once one starts it is not possible to take it if you arrive late.


    ii.      Work done during class is integral to the course, so this work cannot be made up. Your team will be counting on your participation. Stay in touch with your team members and instructor.


    1. Assignments:


    • It is always the responsibility of the student to know when assignments are due.


    • In order to show exact formatting, you must type citation and annotation assignments. I do not accept handwritten citations and annotations. Submit these assignments in Word or rtf files via Blackboard. Most of the assignments are due by 10 a.m.on the day of the class; however some exceptions apply. Such exceptions will be specified individually.



    1. The use of personal electronic devices is not allowed during the class period.


    1.  In order to protect the computers, only water can be brought into the classroom.


    1. Incompletes are not given for this course.


    Academic Integrity

    ·         If at any point in the semester you attempt to pass off someone else’s words or ideas as your own – i.e. plagiarize – you will receive a grade of "0" for the assignment.  You are responsible for acquainting yourself with the University’s Plagiarism Policy (see


    Blog Posting Assignments


    We will be using a class blog order to practice one of the popular Web 2.0 tools. Most of the time you will be required to read an article or watch a web tutorial and then present your responses to the questions formulated in the assignment. Grades will be based on the quality of your writing. Thoughtful, in-depth posts should be comprised two paragraphs and present a good example of college writing. Brief, perfunctory, or unoriginal responses will earn few points. Please be civil and considerate in your posts.


    Wiki Project


    Your final course project is a wiki-based information guide, produced collaboratively by your team. It will be located in PB Works                   

    This guide will provide solid evidence of your team’s understanding of the material highlighted in this course. Consider it, too, as a guide for novice researchers on the topic you are addressing. You should create your wiki guide with these interested users in mind. You will be finding, evaluating, citing and annotating resources in various formats that will become an annotated bibliography part of your wiki project. The information guide will also contain the thesis statement, a glossary of key terminology on your topic, a one-page narrative describing how your team came up with the topic, narrowed it down and proved your thesis statement by selecting appropriate materials.


    I encourage your team to use the team discussion forums. I can set up such forums within Blackboard upon your team’s request.


    Your individual weekly assignments ought to be submitted via Blackboard. During the class meetings the team will decide which sources might best contribute to the team wiki.


    The final wiki-based research guide created by your team will contain the following components, presented in an aesthetically pleasing and functionally effective way:


    • Title
    • Indication of the wiki’s components, with a way to maneuver between them
    • Thesis page: This page will include your team’s thesis statement, and a narrative of approximately one page that indicates how key items in the research guide helped you prove (or modify) your thesis statement
    • Glossary of terminology: Define, in your own words, at least five of the terms connected with your team’s topic. Select terms that novice researchers might not understand, or that were important when you were doing database searches for materials. If you need to include a brief phrase from a print- or Web-based source, include an in-text citation to show that these are not your own words
    • Annotated bibliography: See below for full specifications


    The annotated bibliography portion of the wiki should contain eight items in alphabetical order:

    ·         A reference source (usually an entry in an encyclopedia, handbook, etc.)

    ·         A book

    ·         Two articles: one scholarly and one popular (based on criteria discussed in class)

    ·         Two excellent websites

    ·         Primary research article

    ·         One source in the format not mentioned above: government document, a multimedia source, etc.

    ·         An appropriate source from amongst the eight sources should also be labeled as a secondary source


    Use the APA page in CitationFox (linked through Blackboard or available through the library’s website), or the Sixth Edition of Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association to make certain your citations are written correctly.


    Course Readings:

    ·         Students are required to read two-three articles from the Science Section of the New York Times (comes out on Tuesdays). Each class we will begin with the discussion.

    ·         Other required and suggested readings, tutorials and videos for this course are available through Blackboard. 


    Grading and Course Requirements:          

    Grading (A-E grading system)        




    Discussion posts on class blog


    RATs (divided between individual & team)


    Individual research guide components


    In-class participation


    Team wiki


    Team presentation


    Team peer feedback and assessment


























    595 and below




    Class 1/ August 29


    Introductions:  students and instructor

    Syllabus and course policy discussion

    Team formations

    Information literacy and science literacy concepts

    Virtual tour of the University Library and Science Library

    Minerva/Databases (first peak)

    Selecting a topic – groups are working during class

    Formulating a thesis statement (in-class ex.)


    The list of forbidden topics follows:



    1.                  Abortion

    2.                  ADHD

    3.                  Addictions

    4.                  Alcoholism

    5.                  Alzheimer’s disease

    6.                  Black holes

    7.                  Breast cancer

    8.                  Depression

    9.                  Diabetes

    10.              Marijuana

    11.              Steroids

    12.              String theory




    Recommended (but not limited to) topics plus list of topics circulating in class (also available from Blackboard in Handouts folder):

    • A biographical research about the scientist who made an extremely important scientific discovery
    • A scientific theory
    • An animal or plant species
    • Chemical elements
    • Topics in health and medicine with the exception from above.


    Homework assignment:Due by 12:00 noon, Wednesday, September 11, 2013


    1.      Post individually to the class blog following:

    ·         Your research strategy for narrowing down the topic selected by your team (you may list 3-5 questions or write a short paragraph), and 4-5 keywords that you might use for research on this topic.

    ·         A preliminary thesis statement (use the strategies in the handout distributed in class.) It is also available from



    1. Science Section of the New York Times
    2. Reference Resources, a mini-lecture available from Blackboard
    3. Mini-lecture on Thesis Statement from Blackboard
    4. Research strategies: Finding your way through the information fogby Bill Badke, Chapter 1, “Taking charge”, available online at is also available through Blackboard)


    No Class/ September 5           Rosh Hashanah


    Class 2 / September 12


    RATs (individual and team)

    News in science for today (discussion of the Science Times)

    Wiki team work

    Reference sources in natural sciences

    eDiscover service

    Call numbers for sciences; LCSH classification

    Annotated bibliography/APA Style Guide

    Critical annotations

    Tour of the Science Library

    Online reference sources; in-class exercise

    Math and Computer Sciences: introduction to various sources in Mathematics and Statistics and Computer Sciences, MathSciNet. In-class exercise.


    Homework assignment: Due by 10 a.m., Sept. 19

    1.  Find, cite and annotate a book and a reference book on a topic of your team project (both must be in print from the University Libraries – not from Amazon or Google books). No textbooks.



          1.  Science Section of theNew York Times.

    2.  Research Strategies: Finding your way through the information fog by William Badke. Chapter 4, “Metadata and the Power of Controlled Vocabularies” (available through Blackboard)

    3. Mini-lecture Periodicals available from Blackboard


    Class 3 /September 19


    RATs (individual and team)

    News in science for today

    Team discussion and posting to the wiki of the selected citations and annotations

    Periodicals: scholarly journals vs. trade/professional or popular

    A scholarly article: how to read?

    Electronic databases: selection, search strategies.  Boolean operators, fields, controlled vocabulary vs. keyword search

    Biological Sciences: Sources in biology in various formats.  Class exercise.


    Homework assignment:Due by 10 a.m., Sept. 26

    1.  Find, cite and annotate two articles on a topic of your bibliography. 

    • Article 1 must be from the scholarly journal.
    • Article 2 must be found from the  popular magazine, trade/professional journal or newspaper

    Note: Both articles should be found in one of the online databases to which University libraries subscribe such as Medline, INSPEC, Scopus, MathSciNet, eDiscover Beta, LexisNexis Academic, etc. and should not be from online news web sites


    1. Evaluating Web Content available at
    2. Web Sources mini-lecture available from Blackboard
    3. Science Section ofthe New York Times


    Class 4 / September 26


    RATs (individual and team)

    News in science for today

    Web sources: search engines and search directories

    Web sources evaluation

    Google; Wikipedia; Web 2.0; Class exercise

    Health Sciences.  PubMed. Health resources in various formats.  Class exercise.


    Homework assignment: Due by 10 a.m., Oct.3

    1.      Find, cite and annotate two excellent websites on your topic (no Wikipedia articles).

    2.      Blog posting (check our blog at a new assignment)

    3.      Complete mid-term peer-assessment


    1. Science Section ofthe New York Times
    2. Mini-lecture Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources from Blackboard
    3. Primary and Secondary Sources for Sciences available from


    Class 5 / October 3


    News in science for today

    Team wiki discussion and posting

    Primary/Secondary/Tertiary sources in the sciences.

    Dissecting a primary article

    Science literacy: civic, practical, cultural

    Physics and Nanosciences:Sources in physics and nanosciences; class exercise


    Homework assignment: Due by 10 a.m., Oct. 10

    • Find, cite and annotate one primary scholarly article (it should be found through one of the library databases, such as Medline, eDiscover Beta, SciFinder, etc.)
    • Find, cite and annotate one additional source (such as government document, a multimedia sources, etc.; no Wikipedia articles 



    1. Science section of theNew York Times
    2. “Cracking open the scientific process”, an article by Thomas Lin from the New York Times (January 17, 2011) (available through Blackboard)
    3. Mini-lecture Patenting and Copyright available through Blackboard


    Class 6 / October 10


    RATs (individual and team)

    News in science for today

    Wiki team work: discussing and posting the citations and annotations to the team wiki page

    Copyright/plagiarism/academic dishonesty

    Digital divide, electronic privacy issues

    Open source publications

    Patents; in-class exercise

    Wiki team work: discussion of database critiques and finalizing the thesis page and glossary key terms for the wiki

    Questions/answers/final projects

    Wiki grading rubric

    Chemistry:Various print and online resources; SciFinder database; class exercise


    Homework assignment: Due by 10 a.m., Oct. 17


    1.      Complete the team wiki project

    2.      Prepare an outline of your presentation consulting the handout

    3.      Blog posting (check our blog at a new assignment)

    4.      Final peer assessments


    1. Science Section ofthe New York Times


    Class 7 / October 17


    News in science for today

    Course overview

    Wrap-up exercise





    Characteristics of all General Education Courses

    1. General Education courses offer introductions to the central topics of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields.
    2. General Education courses offer explicit rather than tacit understandings of the procedures, practices, methodology and fundamental assumptions of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields.
    3. General Education courses recognize multiple perspectives on the subject matter.
    4. General Education courses emphasize active learning in an engaged environment that enables students to be producers as well as consumers of knowledge.
    5. General Education courses promote critical inquiry into the assumptions, goals, and methods of various fields of academic study; they aim to develop the interpretive, analytic, and evaluative competencies characteristic of critical thinking.

    Information Literacy General Education Courses

    Information Literacy General Education courses introduce students to various ways in which information is organized and structured and to the process of finding, using, producing, and distributing information in a variety of media formats, including traditional print as well as computer databases. Students acquire experience with resources available on the Internet and learn to evaluate the quality of information, to use information ethically and professionally, and to adjust to rapidly changing technology tools. Student must complete this requirement within the freshman or sophomore year.