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Information Literacy: English & Communications

Information Literacy Skills for English & Communications Majors

Information Literacy Outcomes

Students will be able to

  • access necessary information effectively through basic reading and research strategies, especially via the close reading of texts and the use of scholarly databases and on-line search engines
  • select and  evaluate, for significance and reliability, potential resources in a variety of formats (e.g. book, journal, Website, etc.)
  • understand the differences between popular and scholarly (peer-reviewed) sources
  • understand the ethical use of information in the creation of new knowledge and be able to cite sources properly, avoiding plagiarism in all of its forms
  • introduce quoted, paraphrased, and summarized material, incorporate it into the structure of their own sentences, and interpret it in light of the point being made

Information Literacy by Course Level

The English/Communications Department at MCLA stresses Information Literacy at multiple points in the curriculum, developing a student’s abilities from matriculation to graduation, from ENGL 150 – College Writing II, during a student’s freshman year (usually their first semester), to ENGL 490 – Senior Seminar and beyond.


 At the Tier I level of the Core Curriculum, ENGL 150 – College Writing II is aimed at giving all MCLA students the fundaments of Information Literacy: the ability to know when information is needed, and then to locate, evaluate, and use it—in this case, in that workhorse form of academic writing, the thesis-and-support essay.  The relevant Information Literacy learning outcome from the College Writing II Learning Outcomes is as follows: “Students will be able to use basic research skills to find, incorporate, summarize, paraphrase, and quote directly from sources, and document those sources in an approved format” (i.e. MLA, APA, etc.).  Students are taught how to use the library and library databases, to examine sources for their reliability and authority, to cite these sources fairly and fully, and to use the information, language, and ideas gleaned from these sources to make an effective argument of their own.

In our wide array of 200-level courses, including our many contributions to the Tier II level of the Core Curriculum (especially in Creative Arts), students at once broaden their research skills and refine them by applying them to the creation and critique of different types of discourse: multiple genres of literature; film; digital media, including social media; and traditional media, such as print journalism, television, and radio.  Through papers and presentations, they begin to become fluent in communicating in a variety of modes and formats—through both oral and written discourse, but also by means of various technologies, such as ePortfolio, PowerPoint presentations, and online forums—each of which requires analysis and synthesis prior to being used in communication.

300 to 400-Level
In their upper-division courses, students utilize and further expand their information literacy skills by applying them to increasingly complex problems of research and communication.  At this level, students develop projects for presentation at local, statewide, and regional Undergraduate Research Conferences, create videos and radio programs for broadcast on air and on line, produce print and online versions of the college newspaper, publish creative works in print and on line in the college literary magazine, and create public relations campaigns for area non-profits and arts organizations.  These activities all require students to ask informed questions, think critically, and use a variety of information sources and learned theories to solve real-world problems of information gathering and communication.  These activities also require the application of technology skills, including critical thinking about the information the technology yields—how to interpret and use information concerning reader and viewer access, for instance (data analytics), in creating more effective communications or public relations campaigns.

The student-centered activities in our upper division courses often culminate in independent studies, internships, and other individual projects aimed at preparing students for graduate school or employment.  Work at this level is often self-directed, though always with guidance from faculty and/or on-site supervisors.  Again, learning at this level requires the application of research and information technology skills, often in a professional setting, though students also continue to acquire such skills during these experiences.  Indeed, as our Department Mission Statement says, “. . . we educate our students to become effective, adaptable critics and creators of a variety of discourse” so that they can become lifelong learners not only in their chosen profession or field, but also in their personal lives, so that their “dynamic understanding of the literary and media arts contributes both to their own well-being and the well-being of others.” 

It is arguable that all of our Department Learning Outcomes promote information literacy.  Three are focused especially on the ability to evaluate information (critique): “Analyze texts closely and critically, demonstrating how language, style, form and genre create effects and shape meanings,” “Articulate an understanding of how cultural, historical, and ideological contexts condition both the creation and the reception of texts across time and in today’s complex, diverse world,” and “Use various critical methods and theoretical frameworks in scholarly dialogue with others about the interpretations of texts.”  Three outcomes focus especially on the use of information (creation and communication): “Communicate effectively in oral, written, and other forms of discourse,” “Demonstrate an ability to work effectively in collaborative learning and problem-solving environments,” and “Craft thoughtful, creative texts that demonstrate a keen sensitivity to language, form, style, and effect.”  The two Department Learning Outcomes focused most specifically on Information Literacy are as follows: “Design and conduct research, applying it to problem-solving and contributing to various forms of public discourse,” and “Employ relevant technologies in the production, critique, and presentation of texts.”

The graduated development of information literacy embedded in our curriculum, as described above, makes it difficult to identify particular places where such instruction takes place.  However, it is especially prevalent—and advanced—in certain upper-division courses:

305 Magazine Writing and Editing
306 Business Writing and Editing 
308 Writing Associate Workshop
312 Radio Practicum
313 Global Anglophone Language and Literature 
314 Advanced TV 
319 Global Issues in Communications
321 News Editing Practicum
323 Publication Design and Typography
324 Broadcast Journalism
328 Issues in Journalism 
331 The Story of English 
339 Writing and Reporting the News II
340 Literature and Society
341 Hybrid Poetics 
349 Critical Reading (for Literature concentrators)
351-362 Major Authors
365-379 Texts in Context
381-391 Diverse Voices in Culture
396 Public Relations
397 Special Topics in Film 
400 Intercultural Communication
412 Filmmakers and Filmmaking
427 Senior News Editing Practicum
441 Special Topics in Literature
451 British Literary Survey
461 American Literary Survey
471 World Literary Survey 
481 Special Topics in Mass Communication
490 Senior Seminar
500 Independent Study
540 Internship

It is worth noting that, in addition to secondary source research, English/Communications students regularly engage in what can be called primary research—that is, gathering information directly rather than gleaning it from somebody else’s published research. Reporters interview people for stories and seek out information via the Freedom of Information Act.  Journalists and students in the communications concentrations engage in data gathering and data analytics.  Creative writers do a variety of research, both primary and secondary, to write novels, stories, poems, plays, screenplays, and, of course, creative non-fiction. Film students scout locations for videos.  Literature students read diaries, letters, and holograph manuscripts.  Such research may require travel, including travel overseas.  Virtually all of this research constitutes problem-solving, or a step in problem-solving, in that most of it is aimed at the production of various pieces of discourse and communication.

Information Literacy Assessment

At present, Senior Seminar remains the culminating point of assessment for Information Literacy as for the other department outcomes.  In their Senior Portfolios, students collect a representative sample of the variety of things they have produced via research and other means and reflect upon their educational experience, assessing the department’s performance in helping them to achieve the learning outcomes.  Of course, in so doing, they engage in yet another, very complex problem of research and communication: they must examine their own experience and their own work to create an effective portfolio.  The artifacts contained within the portfolio indicate a student’s level of proficiency in information literacy, but so, too, does the creation of the portfolio itself. Too, the Senior Seminar course contains its own research and communication projects requiring information literacy, critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and communication skills.