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Research Instruction / Information Fluency: First Year Seminars

First Year Writing Seminars

The information fluency component in Furman's First Year Writing Seminars begins the process of teaching students the research skills and understandings they'll need for their time at Furman and beyond.

It should allow them to master the skills as the building blocks of research and begin to guide them into theoretical constructs and deep understandings of

  • the information environment
  • research-based exploration and discovery
  • and the role of these within the scholarly conversation

To that end, each FYW has a library faculty member paired with it.  The Curriculum Review Committee included the following passage in its explanation of the first year seminar requirement in its final report, Invigorating Intellectual Life: A Proposal for Furman University's Academic Program and Calendar:

"A critical part of the writing process, in addition to expressing one’s own ideas clearly and effectively, is locating, evaluating and incorporating information from scholarly sources, as well as giving proper credit to these external sources. With this in mind, each W seminar will include a basic research project and a standard information fluency component. The research component need not be a complicated or long project—just enough for students to get a sense of how the academic literature is structured and to understand the basic types of sources and their uses. A librarian will be paired with each W seminar as an integral part of the course. Librarians will understand the objectives of the course and will assist the classroom professor as she or he plans the research project(s) for the class. The students in each seminar will attend several information fluency instruction sessions during class time. The course librarian will serve as a resource for the students in the course throughout the term. Overall, information fluency instruction will provide students with the foundation of information-seeking skills essential for research work in other courses."

This research instruction takes a combination of forms, including in-class sessions, online tutorials, and individual and group meetings with students.

We look forward to working with you in your FYWs!

Information Fluency Objectives for First Year Writing Seminars

Students will...

  1. work with their professor and their librarian to refine a topic.
  2. understand how to identify important keywords related to their topic.
  3. be able to construct effective searches using database searching techniques, including Boolean Logic, Nesting, Truncation, and Field Searching.
  4. be familiar with the main library web page and the major links available from that page.
  5. know how to locate appropriate databases and other tools for their topic.
  6. know how to search for articles in an academic database.
  7. know how to search for books and other materials in the Furman library catalog, and will be aware of PASCALCat and WorldCat.
  8. know how to locate the full text of books, articles, etc., based on the citation information.
  9. appreciate the distinct characteristics and advantages/disadvantages of various publication types and how information flows through them chronologically. (E.g. books, scholarly journal articles, magazine articles, newspaper articles, blogs, websites, reference books, dissertations, etc.)
  10. understand some of the basic strategies for evaluating resources.
  11. be aware of the existence of Interlibrary Loan and Research Assistance services, branch libraries and Special Collections, and citation tools.
  12. feel comfortable approaching a librarian to ask for help.

Checklist for Effective Research Assignments

An effective research assignment for First Year Writing Seminars…

  • is broken into small, manageable pieces.
  • develops familiarity with core research resources.
  • is based on questions or problems rather than topic areas.
  • has a clear purpose (doesn’t seem like busy work).
  • is highly relevant to the course.
  • is thesis-governed.
  • can be completed with the library’s available resources (or ILL if there is time).
  • teaches students to evaluate the information they find.
  • requires that students synthesize and integrate the information into their own thoughts and writing (not just a power point or web page).
  • deters students from plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty.
  • makes reasonable demands of students (is not too long or complicated for their level).
  • makes clear to students what is being asked of them (clearly phrased, without undefined scholarly jargon).
  • doesn’t have right and wrong answers (no prescribed responses or pre-set solutions).
  • allows students to follow their own interests/passions in relation to the subject material.