Writing Intensive Classes
For a description of basic information literacy skills required of all students before entering upon work in their major, click here.
Faculty may wish to differentiate among the skills important at the 100-, 200-, and 300-level, with yet other skills for honors project-level research. For example, goals for various courses might include the following skills, grouped loosely around locating information, evaluating credibility, interpreting arguments, reading closely, learning languages, reporting findings, and citing works consulted.
History 100 Level Courses
History 200 Level Courses
History 300 Level Seminars
400 Level Including Honors Project
In addition to working with a faculty honors project advisor, all honors project students are required to schedule a research appointment with a reference librarian/archivist/curator. Via the research appointment and consultations with the faculty advisor, the Honors student should have all of the skills identified above. In addition, she should:
Assessment of information literacy takes place regularly within the framework of History courses. Class discussions, examinations, and papers call upon students to demonstrate interpretive skills appropriate to the course topic and level. Their performance in this area is one factor directly and/or indirectly determining their grades. Through formal grading and informal feedback during office hours and research appointments, instructors and librarians help students develop critical awareness of their own abilities and how they are improving.
Assignments requiring students to demonstrate and take advantage of information literacy assume varying forms, depending on the skills involved. In general, introductory courses devote more explicit attention to developing and testing basic skills, while more advanced courses assume students have already learned some skills and can deploy them independently.
A 100-level course might straightforwardly include a specific questionnaire for which students have to examine library holdings both virtually and in person. Papers at the 100- and 200-level might call for critical comparison of conflicting accounts of an event. Particularly useful in enhancing information literacy are readings exposing students to a chain of historical writings, in which later authors draw on earlier ones or react against their conclusions. Some 200-level courses assign research papers requiring students to locate and analyze primary sources. Others pose historiographical questions for which students must weigh competing secondary interpretations.
Some 200-level courses require the compilation of an annotated bibliography, either as a task in its own right or as a preliminary to a substantive investigation. Such a bibliography might, for example, call for the use of at least one scholarly history encyclopedia, the use of the online catalog to identify several relevant monographs, and a selection of scholarly articles identified from Historical Abstracts/ America, History and Life, J-STOR and ProjectMUSE. Students would be prepared to defend the credentials of authors cited (both primary and secondary), if asked.
In 300-level seminars, a similar assignment might be undertaken as one step toward researching and writing a term paper. The student could be asked to indicate the source of each citation, how she came across the item, and its relative value to the argument within the paper. The range of sources could be drawn from the list above. At the 400-level, students’ proficiency in uncovering and evaluating sources is evidenced not only in their writing and bibliographies, but also in their oral defenses of their projects.
In all these cases, library staff are also available to assist students and faculty members in devising, completing, and assessing such work.
For Smith College's policy on the ethical use of information, click here.
Revised February 26, 2015