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First Year Guide: Faculty Resources

A guide for first years, designed to help them learn about the library and conducting research

Keep in mind:

Research skills and information literacy are not skills students develop overnight. Helping first years build these skills is especially important given the range of high school experiences Hamilton students come with. In order for students to be competent researchers by the time they begin research in the major they must already have knowledge of the resources available, as well as skills in searching and opportunities to practice these skills. 

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Alexandra (Alex) Wohnsen
Research Librarian for
Teaching & Learning Initiatives
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The Freshmen Studies

"According to the first year students we interviewed, completing college-level research assignments was both “exciting” and “overwhelming.” Many relished their newfound freedom to explore topics of their own choosing. But most were intimidated by the plethora of print and online sources their college libraries offered and uncertain how to access or use them.

We found a majority of first-term freshmen faced challenges in both locating and then searching through research information systems and services on their new campus. Moreover, most found it difficult to figure out the critical inquiry process while developing competencies, practices, and workarounds for evaluating, integrating, and applying the sources they found.

Of course, not all new college students were "terrified” about getting through their first year; some simply stuck to Google and the other strategies they had used in high school. Others were interested in going beyond these strategies, but were worried about getting mired in the weeds of research. Librarians and faculty could steer these students in the right direction—but this got them only so far." Read the full report at Project Information Literacy.

How the Library Can Help

Library instruction can help your first year students to improve their understanding of information resources, skills, and concepts.

Library Orientation and Use

  • Finding Your Way Around the Library
    • Locating course reserves, computer resources and library collections; using the library catalog, understanding how to request materials from other libraries, where to find help in locating information.
  • Locating and Evaluating Resources
    • Selecting and using print and online books, periodicals, reference sources and web resources; appropriate use of Google.

Research Skills

  • Choosing a Research Topic
    • Developing and refining a research topic, creating a thesis statement, identifying key concepts and search terms.
  • Understanding Types of Information and Publications
    • The information life cycle, scholarly communication & publication, primary and secondary sources, sources and use of images and graphics, visual literacy & copyright.
  • Discovering and Evaluating Information
    • Where to get started, putting a search together, use of print and online sources, reflective evaluation of information.

Information Ethics

  • Citing Sources and Understanding Plagiarism
    • The art of paraphrasing, anatomy of a citation, citation styles, creating a bibliography, using RefWorks.
  • Creating and Sharing Information
    • Information sharing in communities, online publication, ethical dissemination of information.
  • Managing Online Identity
    • Developing a personal profile within information communities, creating an online appearance and image, communicating with different audiences, evaluating locations for an online presence.
  • Developing Intentional Information Skills
    • Critical reflection on the ethical, political and social implications of information, understanding how to incorporate new questions and perspectives into one's life and community, decision-making using information.

First Year Information Literacy Learning Outcomes

First-Year Information Literacy Learning Outcomes


  • Understands assignment guidelines

  • Clearly defines a research question

    • Break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.

  • Formulates basic thesis statements

  • Develops basic research strategies

    • Explores entry-level scholarship in interdisciplinary resources

    • Recognizes that there are a variety of perspectives to be examined

    • Uses technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways

  • Develops a bibliography of diverse resources


  • Chooses appropriate resources which support the scope of the information needed

  • Identifies markers of authority when engaging with information  

    • Evaluates the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.

  • Distinguishes between institutionally provided and open web resources

  • Uses a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.

    • Revises search strategies in light of new evidence

  • Engages with and understands the components of scholarly work

  • Distinguishes between basic types of information

    • scholarly v. popular

    • primary v. secondary

    • fact v. opinion


  • Demonstrates the ability to paraphrase arguments

  • Distinguishes between original ideas and the ideas of others

  • Demonstrates an awareness of the ongoing scholarly conversation

  • Understands that a given scholarly work may not represent the only (or even the majority) perspective at hand

  • Understands that scholarly conversations take place in a variety of venues

    • Explores local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.

  • Develops an understanding of digital identity management.  

  • Communicates complex ideas clearly and effectively via the use of visualizations, models or simulations.


  • Understands when, how, and why to give attribution for sources used in academic work

  • Cites basic information sources in a specified style format (both in-text and in bibliography/footnotes)

  • Possesses a clear understanding of academic dishonesty and how to avoid plagiarism

  • Creates original works or responsibly repurposes or remix digital resources into new creations.

Use of Information

  • Demonstrates an openness to multiple points of view

  • Begins to understand and utilize information to develop informed judgment

  • Recognizes the importance of information in developing an awareness of the challenges and responsibilities of local, national and global citizenship

  • Builds networks and customizes their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.

Sample Assignments

  • Short paper and/or presentation: Comparing and contrasting information presented to the public (newspaper article) vs concrete data (scholarly article, data set). Allows for in-depth source evaluation and discerning the differences of how information is presented to the public vs to scholars.

    • Variation: Give students a newspaper article that discusses a scholarly study (ie: , have students track down the study and discuss the similarities/differences)

      • Starting with a short article or announcement in the popular press, locate the original research on which the popular article was based.  Evaluate the accuracy of the announcement.

    • Variation: Provide (or have students locate) two contemporaneous accounts of an event, have students compare/contrast the accounts and research to determine which account ended up being more historically accurate.

  • Annotated bibliography on course-relevant topic- Allows for more in-depth research since writing is not the central focus of the assignment.

  • Paper and/or Presentation: Locating and presenting critical background on an artwork or piece of creative writing, both contemporaneous reviews and later scholarly critique, also interviews and contextual information on the work’s original appearance/publication.

  • In-class debate on course appropriate topic, with background research and talking points done in advance.

  • Write an academic encyclopedia article for a course-relevant topic. Have students work in pairs/small groups. Present in class, with element of compare/contrast to topic’s Wikipedia entry. Host a class Wikipedia edit-a-thon and discuss the scholarly conversation with students.

  • Create a class blog or website around a relevant topic; research topics and write for a specific audience. Oral presentation component could be a class presentation or research poster on the same topic.   

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