Information-Seeking and Evaluation Skills


The following skills are objectives for JMU General Education Cluster One students:

  • Determine when information is needed and find it efficiently using a variety of reference sources.
  • Evaluate the quality of the information.
  • Use the information effectively for an appropriate purpose.
  • Employ appropriate technologies to create an information-based product.
  • Use information ethically and legally.



Below are specific skills students must master to demonstrate competency.

Module 1 - Orientation to JMU Libraries

The student will identify the following services, collections, and finding aids:


  • Carrier Library & Rose Library
  • Reference
  • Circulation
  • Media Resources
  • Library Delivery Service
  • Library Home Page
  • JMU Library Catalog
  • Periodical Locator

Module 2 - An Introduction to Types of Information

The student will:

  • Given a need for a particular type of information (i.e. overview, scientific research, news), identify and use an appropriate type of source, such as:
    • encyclopedia article
    • book
    • magazine article
    • journal article
    • newspaper article
    • primary source
    • government publication
    • book and movie reviews
    • statistics
  • Differentiate among major finding aids typically used in libraries:  library catalog, research databases, Internet search engines.


Module 3 - Searching a Database

The student will:

  • Define the terms database, record, and field
  • Define 2 types of information databases: catalog and article database
  • Determine the subject scope and years of coverage of a given database
  • Compare and contrast a subject search and a keyword search
  • Build a search strategy using AND, OR, NOT (Boolean operators)
  • Define truncation, nesting, field-specific searching, and phrase searching
  • Identify the main concepts of a research topic and generate a list of search terms


Module 4 - Interpreting Citations

The student will identify and interpret a bibliographic citation

  • book
  • article from magazine or journal
  • newspaper article
  • chapter in a book
  • government publication
  • Web site


Module 5 - Using Internet Sources

The student will:

  • Refine an Internet search to retrieve relevant and high quality results that fit an information need
  • Characterize the value and limitations of searching the Internet versus library information sources.
  • Compare and contrast a database search with an Internet search


Module 6 - Evaluating Sources of Information

The student will evaluate information using the following criteria:

  • Authority of the author or producer
  • Appropriateness of the date of publication
  • Supporting documentation
  • Purpose of the work
  • Review process


Module 7 - Information Ethics: Citing Sources and Fair Use

The student will:

  • Identify the bibliographic elements essential for properly citing an information source
  • Define plagiarism
  • Apply appropriate ethical guidelines to the use and citing of information


Module 8 - A Search Strategy for Research Papers and Speeches

The student will employ an efficient search strategy for a research paper or speech that includes:

  • Choosing a topic and identifying its main concepts
  • Narrowing the focus of the topic
  • Identifying reference books, databases, and Internet sites appropriate for researching the topic
  • Using a variety of sources
  • Evaluating the sources found for appropriateness and quality
  • Citing all sources using a consistent style.


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