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Information Literacy


What Should Italian Majors Know?

By the time of their graduation all majors in Italian language and literature should understand how literary scholars conduct research and how they then communicate the results of their work to colleagues. One way of describing this process is “information literacy” – i.e., the ability to conceptualize what literary information is needed combined with the skills necessary to locate, evaluate, and effectively and ethically use this information (please refer to the final section of this page).

Writing Intensive Classes

Students who have taken writing intensive classes should already have learned the following skills:

  • to define and articulate the need for information and identify a variety of types and formats of potential sources for information beyond the web search engine
    [AT THE VERY LEAST – students will be able to identify and locate the two most appropriate types of information needed to complete their assignment.]
  • to articulate and apply initial criteria for evaluating both the information and its sources
    [AT THE VERY LEAST – students will be able to distinguish between popular and scholarly materials in a variety of formats such as books, periodical literature, and websites.]
  • to acknowledge and cite the sources used in conducting research for an assignment using an acceptable style guide
    [AT THE VERY LEAST – students will be able to locate the appropriate style guide and emergency online help.]

These skills may be regarded by all students as a base for further study. Help is available through the Neilson Library Reference Department's Ask a Librarian options.

Beginning Italian majors

Students should build upon this base by applying and expanding their information skills:

  • Apprentice scholars in Italian language and literature cannot rely solely upon their own knowledge; they must back up what they say by citing both the primary text and reliable secondary sources.
  • To understand the historical context of a topic in Italian students must learn the appropriate use of basic scholarly reference sources such as the following:


    Call Number in Neilson
    Dictionary of Literary Biography ref PN 451 .D53
    Dizionario biografico degli Italiani ref CT 1123 .D5
    Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism ref PN 81 .J55 2005
    Oxford Companion to Italian Literature ref PQ 4006 .O84 2002
    La Piccola Treccani (12 volumes) ref AE 35 .P53 1995
    LIZ (Letteratura Italiana Zanichelli) CD-ROM database of primary sources for Italian literature reserve PQ 4201 .L47 2001
    + PQ 4201 .L47 2001 guide
    Standard scholarly contemporary and historical Italian language dictionaries
  • It is also recommended students learn the use of rhetorical and stylistic manuals, such as: Bice Mortara Garavelli, Manuale di retorica (ref PN 183 .G37 2003).
  • To locate scholarly literary sources students need to become skilled users of standard databases such as (but not limited to) the following:
    Resources SCL Website Locations
    Five College Library Catalog

    and the WorldCat database

    1. Quick Search on the libraries' homepage
    2. Italian subject page: Italian / Books & Media
    3. Smith College Libraries Research (links to library catalog)
    4. Research / Find Books & Media page

    MLA International Bibliography

    and the JSTOR full text database
    1. Italian subject page: Italian / Articles
    2. A-Z list: Research / Databases by Title
    3. Libraries homepage  Quick Search (type MLA Bibliography)
    4. Research / Find Articles page (for JSTOR)
  • Students should be able to identify the credentials of an author whose work they are citing.
  • Apprentice literary scholars need to maintain a flexible vocabulary which will allow them both to alter initial search strategies which prove unsuccessful, while they are researching, and to understand, support, or refute an argument, while they are writing.


Advanced Italian majors at the seminar level should be able to:

  • Students should know how to identify the standard scholarly editions of major writers and to distinguish these from less reliable print or online sources.
  • Students should be able to trace the development of a literary debate from its beginnings to the present day.
  • Through the use of book reviews, review articles, and citation databases Italian majors should be able to defend their use of scholarly materials by evaluating the reception of such works by others in the profession.
  • Advanced students should be able to apply their skills in using literary databases such as MLAIB to those resources in other related disciplines such as Philosophy, Religion, History, Film, the Performing Arts, etc.

In Which Classes Should Students Learn These Skills?

Level Appropriate courses
Beginning By “beginning Italian majors” we mean students enrolled in Italian 250, a Survey class on Medieval and Renaissance literature, and in La Dolce Vita, a class looking at different aspects of Italian cultural tradition.
Advanced By "advanced Italian majors" we mean students enrolled in ITL 331/332 (the year-long course on the Divine Comedy), or in senior seminars and the cinema course.

In What Ways Will Student Skills be Assessed?

Students completing work on a paper at the 200 level should submit a bibliography in which primary and secondary sources listed reflect the use of the online catalog, at least some scholarly journals through the use of MLA International Bibliography. Students should be prepared to defend the credentials of authors cited if asked.

In 300 level seminars in Italian students should routinely cite both supportive and oppositional arguments from primary and secondary sources in papers including book reviews or other articles found through the use of footnotes or citation indexes. The seminar paper might include an annotated bibliography in which students are asked to indicate the source of their citation and its relative value to the argument within the paper.

Ethical Issues

An 'ethical use of information' means to make a clear distinction between received knowledge and the production of new knowledge. The incorporation of the work of others into his or her own must comply with such distinction. Therefore, every written and/or oral work in the discipline must clearly state its source, if it has any.

February 10, 2006