I'm remaking an assignment I'm really excited about that truly blends information literacy with English. I was talking to a friend about the ways we collaborated at Roosevelt where I was a librarian and she was a full-time comp instructor and it got me thinking. I had been trying so hard to teach "like an English professor" that I was neglecting my strenths. It was time to put me back into my teaching and stop trying so hard to "invent the university" the way we know our students do. My old literature essay had questions that were too open ended, to start, but worse -- I had research tucked away at the end of the course like I needed Me The Librarian to come along and talk about building the research process into the assignment.
So here is the redo in draft form and briefly summarized. It is a stretch to think about teaching literature research in a 100 level class that isn't truly a lit class. Do I teach literary research? Or do I teach the research process. Big build up.....I do both! Duh, right?
With 100-level students I usually work on developing good keywords, realistic scope, working from a research question and introduce concepts about information creation. How to do this for literature?
Students will find a reference article on a short story of their choice when we're in the library together and I'll guide them through this. They'll look up the author of the article and find out (most likely) that they're a university professor and they teach classes and we can talk about why they might have written this article. We'll look at where it's published to help them understand reference material -- what else is published there? Why is this created? Students will read their article, noting keywords and unfamiliar terms. Having them pick out keywords is harder than you'd think, so we'll spend a little time there. Then they'll summarize the entry. Literature reference articles are long so they get to practice summary which they're usually pretty skilled at and it's nice to do something well while you're otherwise being challenged. They also get to work on paraphrasing and condensing here. They'll end this portion by generating five questions they have after reading the article.
The next stage is the scholarly article assignment. I'll help them locate scholarly articles that take up their question. It's fun to get them to consider "has anyone else asked a question like this?" since that is part of a scholar's process. Then there's the magic: they don't need to simply start "using" them in an essay. Students will locate the author's question and identify the author's primary argument. Then they'll locate a place where the author is using textual evidence to support his or her claim and analyze how they structure this (probing questions provided). They'll locate a place where the author is responding to another scholar and the moves the author makes doing this, what kind of source they use, how it contributes to the argument, and if the student trusts the source.
Finally, they write a brief essay attempting to answer their question using their own ideas, textual evidence, and evidence from the scholarly and reference article. Later in the term, we build! (I hope).
What I like about this is I am remembering to teach them to be writers and researchers. I have found a way to honor their abilities and not overtax them with "using" a bunch of research they picked up on sale at the library in between other errands. I'll let you know how it goes.