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Library Instruction: Sample assignments incorporating the Frameworks

This guide provides assistance for faculty members who want to include library research tools in their courses.

For Education and/or History courses

Sample #1 (adapted from work done by Kim Butler at North Central College)

For elementary Education Majors and/or History/Secondary Education Majors

Main Concepts - Identifying, analyzing and evaluation of primary sources with an emphasis on locating primary sources via the library and the web

Learning Outcomes:

Students will be able to determine whether a source is primary or secondary.
Students will be able to analyze and evaluate both virtual and physical primary sources

Alignment with ACRL Frameworks

  • Authority is constructed and contextual
  • Research as Inquiry

Topic - Great Chicago Fire of 1871

1. Introduce primary sources using two websites as review tools:

What are primary resources from Yale University

Using Primary sources from the Library of  Congress The emphasis on this site is how incorporate primary sources into your teaching

2.Getting background information

" Research Starter" from Trexler Library OneSearch Discuss importance of beginning with a reliable secondary sources to get factual information. Look at cited resources at the end of the article.

Try Searching JStor

3. Archival resources in Trexler

Introduce the concept that primary source material can sometimes be found within secondary source materials.

Angle, P. (1946) The great Chicago fire: Described in seven letters by men and women who experienced its horror, and now published in commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the catastrophe. Chicago: the Chicago Historical Society. 
Butz Room F548 A5 

Discuss the authority of the Chicago Historical Society

4. Online primary sources:

Pictures available from the Library of Congress
From the Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory


For Intensive research experience and/or literature review

Adapted from pedagogy developed by Jennifer Jarson, Instruction Librarian at Muhlenberg College

Shaping and reflecting on process: Research as Inquiry


For students:

  • Direct attention to process
  • Identify strategies
  • Understand iterative process is normal and even desirable
  • Promote attitude of flexibility, exploration and inquiry
  • Promote reflextion and metacognition

For Librarians and faculty members:

  • Learn about students' processes
  • Identify opportunities for pedagogical improvement

Activity for the start of the project:

  • Draw a picture  (e.g. picture, outline, flow chart. or diagram) that characterizes your typical research and writing project
  • You might think back to a specific example, like the last time you did a research paper or project, or you might think about what you generally do
  • Your represention might include steps you took (forward and/or backward), key moments of discovery or understanding, the you felt at key points etc.

After students begin their research, librarian leads a class discussion of linear vs. iterative process.

Research as a linear process looks like this:

Project Assigned Select a Topic Collect Sources Read Sources Write Submit 

Research as an Iterative Process looks like this:

Reflective exercise after the final product is submitted:

  • Draw a representation (e,g, picture, outline or diagram) that represents your research and writing process of the literature review assignment
  • Think back to the beginning, when you first learned about the assignment and started thinking about what you wanted to work on, all the way to when you submitted your final project.
  • Include information about the steps you took (forward and backward), where you changed direction or encountered problems, the way you felt as you progressed in the assignment etc.

Why we should talk about the process:

For Students

  • Direct attention to process
  • identify strategies
  • Understand that the iterative process is normal, and even desirable
  • Promote attitude of flexablity, exploration, and inquiry
  • Promote reflection and metacognition

For Librarians and Faculty

  • Learn about student processes
  • Identify opportunities for pedagogical improvement

For STEM courses

Sample #2 (Adapted from work done by Kelly Grossmann at Northeaster Illinois University)

This lesson was developed for the STEM disciplines, to give real world context and meaning to the notion that "authority is constructed and contextual"

Lesson Plan: Evaluating sources -- What’s a ‘reliable’ source?

Frame: Authority is constructed and contextual

Learning outcomes:

Students will compare information about sources to determine if they are appropriate for use ­and identify features of a source to help determine relevance and reliability in a given context


This activity follows a discussion of the “War on Science” issue of National Geographic.  (Joel Achenbach. “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?” National Geographic, March 2015.­doubters/achenbach­text )

The issue discusses the disconnect between many ideas that are commonly accepted in the scientific community and the frequent rejection of such concepts by the public at large: “empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts.”

Through the internet, the information provided by non­experts has become abundantly available, thus it is becoming increasing critical to distinguish credible, reliable, valid information from information that is false or presented with a bias.

Activity Summary

Students will work in groups of two.

Each student will receive one of the three articles listed below, then complete the information on the table for their article.

Students may use the internet to look up bios, determine if an article is peer reviewed, etc. 

The students should then discuss as a group if an article should be ignored, or saved as a source. The students will be asked to explain how they came to these conclusions. Students will likely have some debate regarding the Dicks article.

After the activity, plug the search terms bees "neonicotinoids" into Google (Google results change frequently, but at the time this lesson was designed, the Entine article ranked 3rd in results).

Allow students time to discuss what this means about their search techniques.


Lynn Dicks, "Bees, lies and evidence­based policy," Nature 494, no. 7437 (2013): 283­283.­lies­and­evidence­based­policy­1.12443

Jon Entine, “Bee deaths reversal: As Evidence Points Away From Neonics As Driver, Pressure Builds To Rethink Ban,” Forbes, February 5, 2014.­deaths­reversal­as­evidence­points­away­fromneonics­as­driver­pressure­builds­to­rethink­ban/

Tapparo, Andrea, Daniele Marton, Chiara Giorio, Alessandro Zanella, Lidia Soldà, Matteo Marzaro, Linda Vivan, and Vincenzo Girolami. "Assessment of the environmental exposure of honeybees to particulate matter containing neonicotinoid insecticides coming from corn coated seeds." Environmental Science & Technology 46, no. 5 (2012): 2592­2599. http://www.ask­­Assessment­Environmental­Exposure­Honeybees­2012.pdf

Activity Background

Imagine you are an aide working for a legislator. The legislator is concerned about the environmental ramifications of widely used neonicotinoid pesticides and would like more information before making a policy decision regarding whether the pesticides should be restricted.

Because the legislator’s decision affects a large number of people, it is essential that you provide relevant, recent, scientifically valid information that comes from experts in the field. You don’t have a lot of time to generate your report so you must act fast in deciding if a source should be examined further or ignored.


1. Each partner should take a different article. Independently, complete the table with information from your article. You are welcome to search the web to more information.

2. When all members of the group have completed the information for their article, share with the group to complete the table.

3. Within your group, discuss/debate the “Discussion Questions” below.  Be prepared to share your thoughts with the class.

Article Title Assessment of the environmental exposure to honey bees to particulate matter containing neoicotinois insecticide coming from corn coated seeds Bee Deaths Reversal: evidence  points away from neonics as driver Bees, Lies and Evidence- based policy
Date 2012    
Publication Title Environmental Science & Technology    
Is the publication peer reviewed? yes    
Is the article peer reviewed (Hint: Look at the type of article) yes    
First author and credentials

Andrea Tapparo
Degree: Chemistry
Current: University of Padova
Dept. of Chemical Sciences



1. Based on each of the following factors independently,​which article is the most relevant/recent/reliable:

a. Title
b. Date
c. Publication
d. Author’s credentials

2. Which articles do you think should be used to inform the decision of the legislator? Which should be ignored? Why?

3. In what discipline is Andrea Tapparo be considered an expert? Lynn Dicks? Jon Entine

4. Search in Google: bees neonicotinoids. Which of the 3 articles is displayed in the top results? What could you do differently to get the most credible sources in a search?

5. Do you think a different scenario or research question would change how you view the credibility of these sources? Why or why not?

Create by: Kelly Grossmann Northeastern Illinois University, 02/15/15

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