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The Wise Scholar: A Guide to Teaching Information Literacy

Instructional guide for faculty based on the skills and values of the Wise Scholar model

Goals and Guidelines

In ENGL101, our goal is to introduce students to basic research skills and help them develop into Wise Scholars. The research project assigned in this course provides the best opportunity to walk through some of these major research practices and values with students--many of whom may have little experience at the beginning with college research or even college work in general yet--in order set them up well for future projects.

Given the importance of this content, we provide the Wise Scholar framework to outline our larger outcomes and this particular page with instruction recommendations for ENGL101:

  1. Set aside 2-3 class sessions for library research instruction on Questioning, Searching, and Evaluating.
    • We recommend scheduling these sessions early on in the semester, even before Fall Break if possible, to afford your students plenty of time to practice searching and adjusting their research questions.
  2. Work with your liaison librarian to plan these sessions using the guidelines below for inspiration.
    • Your librarian may specifically request that you link to and assign a Wise Scholar Module activity (5-10 minute, asynchronous quizzes) for your students to complete for follow-up instructional assessment.
  3. If planning on individual library consultations for your students, schedule well in advance to avoid conflicts
    • We have found that individual consultations are very helpful to students, especially if scheduled before their final bibliographies are due so that they can receive personalized advice on their research question and search strategies.

Session 1: Question


  • Watch Wonder video at beginning of class or assign to watch beforehand - Have students discuss or write short, reflective response (Ex: What makes wonder valuable in your personal faith life? What makes wonder valuable in your academic life?)


  • Prepare students for beginning their research projects by discussing "inquiry-based" scholarship and the role of wonder or questions in a scholar's work (Refer to Wise Scholar Module for further talking points)
  • Explain to students the necessity of a main research question for guiding and defining the scope of a research project and introduce them to the 3 Criteria for a good research question (feel free to make use of Developing Your Research Question video to supplement teaching):
    • Driven by passion and purpose - Does your question excite you, are you personally interested in learning more? Why does your question matter, how can learning more impact others?

    • Appropriately focused - Can this question be answered by a single page of facts? Does this question need a full book to cover every theory? Instead, can your question help you select something specific to explore deeply?

    • Open to objective debate - Does your question leave room for the possibility of multiple perspectives or answers?


  • Have students complete the Tweak Your Topic activity in the Wise Scholar Module
  • Other in-class activity or outside-class assignment ideas:
    • Find a wiki article on a topic you’re interested in, read and look for ideas that spark your wonder
    • Read a web article on a trending topic, note the questions and concerns that this reading raises in your mind

Session 2: Search


  • Watch Persistence video at beginning of class or assign to watch beforehand - Have students discuss or write short, reflective response (Ex: What makes it so hard to keep going sometimes when it comes to academic work? Think of a time when you practiced persistence to overcome a personal challenge - what could you take away from that experience to help you when facing research challenges?)


  • Encourage students to count on the library for high-quality resources like scholarly databases and personal support from librarians as they search for sources (Refer to Wise Scholar Module for further talking points)
  •  Explain to students the importance of having a plan when searching for sources and introduce them to the 3 Strategies for making better searches (feel free to make use of Brainstorming Your Keywords video and Searching in a Database video or Using SearchStart video to supplement teaching)
    • Brainstorm keywords - think about other ways your topic might be referred to and include those synonyms and other related words that could be connected to your topic in your search

    • Use database filters - select from the built-in search options in different databases to help limit your search results to the types of sources you need

    • Search citations - look at the bibliographies at the ends of sources you've already found and search specifically for relevant titles, terms, or author names you see there


  • Have students complete the Experiment with Search activity in the Wise Scholar Module
  • Other in-class activity or outside-class assignment ideas:
    • Explore the list of librarians by subject on the Hekman website, find out whose subject specialty most closely matches your topic
    • Create a table with columns breaking down each element of your research question, brainstorm keywords for each piece
    • Use the library's SearchStart tool to look for sources, write down one article and one book you find
    • Skim a scholarly article's bibliography, find one more interesting article listed and use SearchStart to see if it is available

Session 3: Evaluate


  • Watch Discernment video at beginning of class or assign to watch beforehand - Have students discuss or write short reflective response (Ex: What priorities or values guide you when making decisions in your personal, every-day life? How are those priorities the same and how are they different when making decisions in your academic life and projects?)


  • Discuss with students who are searching and evaluating sources the need for both efficient fact-checking and deeper reading to avoid information that is not useful, inaccurate, or even deliberately misleading (Refer to Wise Scholar Module for further talking points)

  • Explain to students that, rather than relying on "good/bad" checklists, they need to consider what kinds of information they need and what types of sources will best provide that - introduce the 3 scales for judging information/its source (feel free to make use of Understanding Your Source Types video and Intro to Evaluation video to supplement teaching):

    • Relevance - How much of this source is actually about your topic? How well does this source meet your information needs

    • Expertise - Can you find other writings that confirm what this source says? How well-educated or -qualified is the author of this source to write on this topic?

    • Bias - Can you find more information about the background of this source? Are there any other motives or blindspots from this source's authors that could influence the information they present?


  • Have students complete the Clues to Evaluate activity in the Wise Scholar Module
  • Other in-class activity or outside-class assignment ideas:
    • Read one web article, explore the site for About information or Google to find more about the authors, rate their Expertise
    • Compare 3 publishers (scholarly institution, popular magazine, personal blog), discuss what their priorities might be as organizations and whether those priorities make their content more or less appropriate for your scholarly work
    • Discuss the practice of identifying Limitations in scholarly studies, make a list of limitations you may have in your own research
    • Look up 3 sources in AllSides Media, identify which source might be most appropriate for your research based on Bias rating