Skip to Main Content

Information Literacy: Instruction Sessions

Library Instruction Sessions

The Instruction Librarian works with faculty to develop sessions focused on students' information literacy needs. Sessions can be structured as intensive workshops focused on a specific research task or can provide an overview of library resources. The Instruction Menu on this page suggests topics that may be addressed in an instruction session, though faculty are encouraged to contact the Instruction Librarian directly to develop a customized instructional plan. The "Specials" are popular combinations of topics that may expedite the planning process.

Faculty interested in improving their students information literacy skills but unable to schedule an instruction session are encouraged to consider the helpful videos and interactive tutorials available on our Tutorials Library Guide. Or, reach out to the instruction librarian for new resources not available here. 

Instruction Menu


Estimated Time

Standard Introduction & Conclusion (required in all first-time sessions)

  • diagnosis of students’ familiarity/experience with the library & research
  • purpose and goals of the session
  • information about additional research help/resources available
  • end-of-session feedback survey

   5 minutes

Basic Library Information and Overview of Services

  • brief overview of holdings, collections, & circulation and access policies
  • course-specific Library Guides
  • interlibrary loan
  • reference services, consultations, & chat service

   5 minutes

Developing a Search Strategy

  • defining and refining a research question or paper topic
  • identifying keywords and establishing search parameters
  • selecting and accessing relevant databases

   10 minutes

Library Catalog Basics

  • differences between catalog, database, and open web searches
  • limiting searches by material type, collection, format, availability, etc.
  • eBook access and link resolution
  • consortial agreements, WorldCat & interlibrary loan

   10 minutes

Source Types

  • scholarly vs. popular vs. trade publications
  • primary vs. secondary vs. tertiary sources
  • the information life cycle

   10-15 minutes

Basic Database Searching* (using the library’s discovery tools)

  • differences between catalog, database, and open web searches
  • keyword searching
  • deciphering database results and records
  • using initial results to expand search strategy
  • narrowing, broadening, and refining results
  • citation helpers

   25-30 minutes


Advanced Database Searching*

quick recap of the points in Basic Database Searching (above), plus:

  • finding and accessing specialized, disciplinary databases
  • advanced queries using Boolean operators, truncation, & nesting
  • using descriptors and built-in thesauri
  • creating folders, saving results, special features

   30 minutes, add 10 minutes for each database you’d like covered

Advanced Googling*

  • advanced tips and tricks (and warnings); surface web vs. deep web
  • Google Scholar library settings and citation linking
  • other Google services/products: maps, images, books, translate
  • alternatives to Google: other search engines, open access databases

   15-30 minutes (depending on the number of services/tools addressed)

Evaluating Sources*

  • tips for assessing credibility of content from websites
  • the peer-review process
  • the information life cycle
  • interpreting URLs
  • contextual and constructed authority

   30-35 minutes


  • attribution, copyright, sampling, memes vs. academic dishonesty and plagiarism
  • differences between summarizing, paraphrasing, and direct quotation
  • strengths & weakness of online citation tools/sites

   25 minutes, add ten minutes for each additional style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.)


*All modules marked with an asterisk* work best when students can participate in interactive activities requiring computer and network access.  Analog/lecture versions of these modules are possible, but they’re nowhere near as engaging or productive. 

Instruction Specials

“The Blue Plate Special”

(a basic 50 minute session for a lower-level class with a pending research paper)

  • Standard Intro & Conclusion (5 min.)
  • Basic Library Information and Overview of Services (5 min.)
  • Source Types (10-15 min.)
  • Basic Database Searching* (using the library’s “Search Everything” tool) (25-30 min.)

“The Deluxe Platter”

(a 75 minute session for upper-division students with prior library instruction)

  • Standard Intro & Conclusion (5 min.)
  • Library Info/Services/Catalog combo (5 min.)
  • Advanced Database Searching* (40 min.)
  • Citation (25 min.)

“The Short Stack”

(a 50 minute session for new students not yet working on a research-intensive assignment)

  • Standard Intro & Conclusion (5 min.)
  • Basic Library Information and Overview of Services (5 min.)
  • Library Catalog Basics (10 min.)
  • Evaluating Sources* (30 min.)

Best Practices for Library Instruction

Library Instruction sessions tend to work best when:

  • the course instructor and the librarian have communicated clearly about the goals and format of the session
  • the students have already been given a research-based assignment and had time to consider possible topics
  • the course instructor is present during the session to answer any assignment-specific questions that arise
  • the students have notebooks or laptops for taking notes during the librarian's presentation
  • the course instructor works to minimize time spent during the library session on traditional classroom business (e.g. announcements and reminders, attendance-taking, collecting or returning assignments)
  • the students are reminded to take advantage of the relevant Library Guides on the Van Wagenen Library website
  • the students and faculty take the time to provide feedback to the librarian after the session


Use this form to request information literacy sessions for your classes or reach to Freya Gibbon, at (x5858).


Profile Photo
Freya Gibbon
she, her
Van Wagenen Library 115A