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Sample Assignment Instructions for Information Competency

Here is an example of how I use information competency in my Behavior Disorders in Childhood class. This template can easily be adapted to other course content.

Psychology 456: Information Competency Assignment

 What is information competency?

  • The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) developed competency standards for higher education.
  • These standards apply to all resources, not just electronic resources.

The information literate student is able to:

  • Determine the extent of information needed.
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently.
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically.
  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base.
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally.

Why should we worry about information competency?

  • Not all information on the internet is reliable.
  • Information competency skills are important for evaluating ALL sources of information.

Assignment FAQs:

  • Length of papers will vary with the assignment chosen, but in no case should be longer than 5 pages.
  • Content of papers should be relevant to the course objectives of Psychology 456. In other words, the content should reflect particular childhood disorders, or related issues, such as the use of medication for treating childhood disorder, risk factors for childhood disorder, appropriate interventions, etc.
  • Papers should use APA style for any in-text citations. A reference page using APA style should be included at the end of your paper. This page does not count for the 5 page limit.
  • Title pages are not necessary. On the top right hand corner of the first page of your paper, include your name, email address, PSY 456, and the date. For the title of your paper, use Assignment 1, etc.
  • ALL PAPERS MUST BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY.  For your subject line, use your name psy 456 information competency. Papers will be returned to you electronically with my comments inserted using the “track changes” menu in Word.
  • Grading will be based on accuracy, completeness, clarity of writing, and correct use of APA style.
  • Some of the assignments are noted as being “advanced.” I do not want to discourage you from attempting one of these difficult assignments, and I will take difficulty level into account in evaluating your work.
  • For our purposes, a scholarly source:
    • Is peer reviewed.
    • Describes original research conducted by the authors, who typically have graduate degrees in their field.
    • Is usually found in scientific journals, book chapters, and books designed for libraries and practitioners (as opposed to those found in Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc).
    • Targets a scholarly audience, including students, faculty, researchers, and professionals.
  • For our purposes, a popular press source:
    • Is not peer reviewed.
    • Describes conclusions or research conducted by somebody other than the authors. Authors of popular press work typically are journalists who do not have advanced degrees in the area they’re describing, although exceptions occur. In cases of authors with advanced degrees, you can usually identify the article as popular or scholarly based on the target audience.
    • Is usually found in newspapers, magazines (Time, Newsweek, etc.), websites (WebMD, etc.) and “self-help” types of books.
    • Targets the lay audience, in other words, people with little to no background in the subject.

In order to develop and practice your information competency skills, choose ONE of the following assignments:

Assignment 1: The Challenge Article

  • Choose a controversial reading.  Examples might include something like Richard DeGrandpre’s article “Is Your ADHD Support Group a Front Organization for the Pharmaceutical Industry?” found at http://ritalindeath.com/frontgroup.htm
  • Examine five of the author’s main points using scholarly resources.
  • Investigate the author, and comment on possible biases.

Assignment 2:  Revising the Challenge Article

  • Choose a controversial reading, as in Assignment 1.
  • Rewrite the article in a manner you believe to be more objective.
  • This assignment is designed primarily for grad students, but it should be within the capabilities of advanced undergraduates who have taken research methods and/or senior project.

Assignment 3:  The Update

  • Locate a review article in an area of interest to you that is at least 3 years old.
  • Provide citations of ten articles that should be added to the article.
  • Provide a rationale for why each article should be included.
  • This is also an assignment that is designed for advanced students.

Assignment 4:  The Experts

  • Identify three experts in an area of interest to you. A quick glance at the references cited in your text should help you figure out who these people are. For instance, if you are reading about ADHD, Barkley is cited frequently. If you are reading about repressed memories, Loftus is cited.
  • Compare and contrast their ideas and methods.
  • Identify who influences your thinking the most and the least, and describe why you think this is the case.

Assignment 5:  The Popular Press vs. the Scholarly Press

  • Pick a topic that is widely covered by the popular press, such as magazines and newspapers. For instance, ADHD and autism receive wide coverage.
  • Compare and contrast the way your topic is covered in the scholarly and popular presses. A good way to start is to look for names of experts who are interviewed in popular press articles and read some of their publications. Are they being portrayed accurately in the popular press or not?

Assignment 6:  React to the Scholarly Press

  • Read and briefly summarize five scholarly papers on a topic of interest to you.
  • Identify your personal opinion of the topic prior to reading the papers. After reading the papers, consider whether or not your personal opinion is the same or different. Consider why or why not your opinions stayed the same or changed.
  • Identify which of the articles had the most influence on your thinking about the topic, and why this was the case.
  • Identify which of the articles had the least influence on your thinking, and why this was the case.

For further information and links on information competency, see


Promoting Information Competency in Biological Psychology (Laura A. Freberg and Gayle Brosnan-Watters)



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updated: 05/01/2008

© 2007,  Laura Freberg , animations © 2007, Karla Freberg