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Faculty Focus Groups: UCLA Information Literacy Initiative


The UCLA Library’s Information Literacy Initiative sponsored faculty focus groups in May 2003 to gather information on faculty's perspectives on undergraduate students' abilities to locate information efficiently, evaluate it, and use it effectively and ethically. Twenty-seven faculty from a variety of disciplines and departments across the campus participated in the discussions.

A review of the transcripts indicates that the participants have many concerns surrounding this issue. Most notably were students' lack of understanding regarding the issues surrounding plagiarism and intellectual property; the inability of students to critically evaluate the quality of the material they have found; and students' lack of understanding of what constitutes the scholarly process (how that differs in different disciplines, how to not only gather information, but to analyze it, synthesize what is found and come up with their own interpretation of the material).

Faculty indicated that they handled the problem in a variety of ways. Some did not assign papers or projects that required the students to gather information from the literature in the field. Rather these faculty members had students analyze designated material or data sets, either in print or online, and draw conclusions from them.

Of those who did make assignments that required the use of the literature in the field, some restricted students to predetermined material either by putting it on reserve or giving students lists of titles and/or resources that were acceptable. While they acknowledged that this did not directly teach critical thinking and evaluative skills, the faculty hoped students might learn by example. The rest of the faculty that required literature-based research, tried to give the students some direction, but allowed the students to research on their own.

Other possible approaches were discussed from the perspective of the library, the faculty and the campus at large. Solutions included creating assignments or adapting ones already used to help introduce students to the problematic concepts and to the appropriate use of library materials; developing library sponsored and librarian taught courses to address the issues and bringing the issues to the attention of curriculum oversight committees on campus. Faculty and librarian collaborations were viewed as very effective approaches to dealing with these issues.

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