ULIB 301: Gender and the Research Process

Office: Room 2206B, Wise Library
Office Hours: By appointment
Instructor: Carroll Wetzel Wilkinson
Email: cwilkins@wvu.edu
Phone: (304) 293-0308
Fax: (304) 293-6638


Course Description

Gender and the Research Process addresses the interlocking topics of women, men, and information. Through the lens of gender, it teaches students the process of research. The course is designed to help students become active members of the information society. Learning today must emphasize the thought and effort required to outwit the forces that create barriers to finding the right information. By teaching both the skills and the concepts behind basic research, and by providing the hands on experiences to apply those concepts and skills, this course is a learning laboratory of information literacy. Broadly speaking, information literacy is the set of abilities that allow a person to recognize when information is needed and then to effectively and efficiently act on that need.

The learning environment of this course encourages critical and independent thinking. But collaboration between students is also an essential element of this class. Students pick a subject of great interest to them, refine the subject so that it becomes a question, and then explore appropriate parts of the information environment to find answers and advance their own knowledge.

Students will acquire understanding of the scope of the information environment, information resources about socially constructed and socially expected differences between men and women, and their components. These sources include social networking sites, museums, proprietary databases, libraries and their contents, people resources, the Internet, the invisible web, and how to harness personal curiosity.

Upon completion of this course (which will include a mixture of active learning assignments, readings, lectures, oral presentations, class discussions, and guided hands on activities) students will find themselves knowledgeable about a subject of their own choosing. They will be equipped to make decisions about the selection, critical evaluation, and application of information now and in the future. Students will also have more than information: as new information skeptics, students will have an understanding of the research process. Students who complete this course are prepared for their futures in the workforce or in graduate study because they will possess information literacy, a central capability in the 21st century knowledge landscape.

The purposes of this course are:

Description of the class:

Class activities will be centered on finding, locating, analyzing, synthesizing, and presenting information, and will give many examples of information sources explicating gender differences. Frequent in classes will clarify basic concepts, trends, and issues in the information environment. Students will receive introductions to the many types of sources and repositories that exist in the modern information environment. Guided, hands on explorations of both print and electronic tools will be frequent, as will active learning assignments. Peer support and reverse mentoring will be emphasized. Building a community of learners will be a goal of this class. Outside class students will read, do group learning assignments, and undertake individual explorations. Brief (in class) oral reports of reading reactions and research experiences are expected.

Students will keep a record of in-class notes, an information journal/portfolio documenting information problems identified, strategies for seeking information, obstacles encountered (if any), the information found, its sources and formats, and the student’s evaluation of the quality of the information identified. The information portfolio will be process oriented, and will require each student to share how she/he went about finding the results and what some of the challenges were along the way. Throughout the course, students will choose questions to ask and answer about their research results. These questions will be based on criteria for the assessment of quality in information sources.

Each student will identify an area of personal curiosity by the end of the fourth week of class to anchor her/his final assignment. Each student will frame the area of curiosity into a research question with a gender component. This question will serve as a topic for in-depth exploration throughout the rest of the semester. This culminates in the Meta-Research Learning Project, which is at completion, a 20-page research process essay and a 20 item annotated bibliography on the student’s research question. Guidelines for this project will be distributed during the first week of class.

By the end of the term, students will be able to:

If this course is successful, students will enjoy a new confidence in their ability to think and act strategically whenever an information need arises in their lives. Students should finish the course with a cognitive map of their findings regarding the area of curiosity they explored, and a multi-faceted, annotated source list from their literature review. The source list will be formatted in a bibliographical style relevant to their major.