Improving Your Health Sciences Information Literacy, or Please Bother Your Librarians

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How information literate are you?

Before you answer that, let’s define information literacy.  The American Library Association (1989) defines it as a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”  Here at NYMC, the Health Sciences Library has developed a set of information management competencies that students are expected to achieve by graduation:

  1. Define an information need in terms of developing a searchable question;
  2. Select appropriate resources relative to an information need in order to find the best available information;
  3. Demonstrate the use of search terms and database features to construct a logical search strategy;
  4. Evaluate information resources and the quality of information retrieved including the source, authorship, currency, quality, reliability, and applicability to professional practice;
  5. Synthesize and summarize information to produce original content appropriate for an intended purpose, to include a well formatted bibliography;
  6. Demonstrate understanding of intellectual property and copyright laws, including plagiarism, the ethical use of information and fair use;

Even if that sounds like a piece of cake to you, studies have shown that students greatly benefit from information literacy instruction.  Ivanitskaya et al. (2006) found a very weak connection between self-perceived information literacy and measured information literacy among college-age students.  In October 2012, Ivanitskaya et al. again used the Research Readiness Self-Assessment (RRSA) tool to measure the information literacy of preprofessional health students.  Their findings emphasize the continuing need for assessment and bolstering of information competencies among health sciences students.

Educators may look to Kingsley et al. (2011) for evidence that including information literacy modules in their course plans aids students in targeting and filtering information for quality and reliability.

So, how can NYMC students and faculty improve their information literacy?

The librarians at the Health Sciences Library are here to help!  We offer free classes on everything from catalog and database searching to RefWorks and PowerPoint.  If you can’t wait for a class, no problem!  Schedule a one-on-one consultation with your librarian liaison.  Consultations can be held face-to-face or virtually.  We also give library orientations to incoming students, and can visit your class to give embedded library instruction.  For quick library instruction, visit our tutorials.  Please don’t hesitate to call, email, IM, or stop by the reference desk with questions big or small as well.  Reference librarians can be reached remotely at 914-594-4210, or by email or chat.

In short, please bother us – we’ve given you many ways to do so!  We love information, and we’re here to help you find, evaluate, organize, and present it.
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Ivanitskaya L, O’Boyle I, Casey AM. Health information literacy and competencies of information age students: Results from the interactive online research readiness self-assessment (RRSA). J Med Internet Res. 2006;8(2):e6. doi: 10.2196/jmir.8.2.e6.

Ivanitskaya LV, Hanisko KA, Garrison JA, Janson SJ, Vibbert D. Developing health information literacy: A needs analysis from the perspective of preprofessional health students. J Med Libr Assoc. 2012;100(4):277-283. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.100.4.009; 10.3163/1536-5050.100.4.009.

Kingsley K, Galbraith GM, Herring M, Stowers E, Stewart T, Kingsley KV. Why not just google it? an assessment of information literacy skills in a biomedical science curriculum. BMC Med Educ. 2011;11:17. doi: 10.1186/1472-6920-11-17.

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