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The Swarthmore College Libraries Learning Outcomes were developed in conversation with faculty across the disciplines within the framework of the Association of College and Research Libraries information literacy standards and the value rubrics of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Also taken into consideration were results from the 2013 interdisciplinary AALAC Conference on Assessing Undergraduate Student Research which we organized in conjunction with Amherst College. As part of ongoing review of these objectives we anticipate the need for revision based on the latest version of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy expected fall 2014.

The Learning Outcomes articulate expectations of students' research fluency with the discovery, evaluation and use of information in academic work as they progress through college, regardless of major. Given the breadth of opportunity afforded by a liberal arts education and the challenges of the 21st century, these outcomes can serve as benchmarks by which to measure wide ranging and cross disciplinary higher level research skills; a sense of personal and social responsibility in the ethical use of information; and an ability to apply knowledge to complex problems.
April 2014

Swarthmore College Libraries - Learning Outcomes /Objectives

1. The student will be able to frame a researchable question or topic

  1. The student should be able to shape exploratory ideas into a researchable question, thesis or testable hypothesis
  2. The student will know how to define the initial scope of the research question or thesis in relationship to existing scholarship
  3. The student knows when a topic may need to be refined or modified
  4. Through refining and refocusing the student can pose new questions; the student understands the research process to be iterative

2. The student will be able to design, structure and organize a research project

  1. The student is able to develop a research design that is most appropriate to their topic or research question.
  2. The student understands and utilizes the most appropriate research methodologies for that project given the relative cost and benefits of acquiring the needed information
  3. The student has an understanding of and can apply multiple methodological approaches to gathering data/evidence that may be disciplinary or multi-disciplinary
  4. The student understands when to seek outside assistance in the research process

3. The student understands how to discover and explore relevant literature and organize their findings.

  1. The student understands the different ways disciplines have of engaging in scholarly conversation.
  2. The student understands the scholarly information system and other information dissemination systems, their purpose and intended audiences, and their role in the student's research.
  3. The student knows the most appropriate resources (bibliographic tools and databases) for one's research, level of understanding of the discipline/topic and search methodologies that provide for optimal retrieval and relevancy. Student possesses a command of the appropriate disciplinary vocabulary.
  4. The student is able to read and critically examine a variety and breadth of sources to explore the topic.
  5. The student knows the various tools and strategies for obtaining/accessing information sources whether in physical or online formats within and outside of the College.
  6. The student utilizes a system to effectively organize and manage both secondary sources and primary data for further analysis.

4. The student is able to evaluate and analyze existing knowledge, views and evidence.

  1. The student is able to discern authoritative resources (authors, journals) in a particular subject area/discipline.
  2. The student is able to select, critique and analyze the secondary literature with respect to relevance to topic, as well as with respect to assumptions (ex. bias) and contexts and approaches (ex. cultural).
  3. The student is able to determine what sources require most attention; engages in multiple methods of reading including browsing, scanning, skimming to close-reading as appropriate.
  4. The student is able to utilize appropriate tools and strategies in the analysis and interpretation of primary evidence (ex. qualitative, statistical, graphical tools).

5. The student is able to synthesize existing knowledge and new evidence and use information to accomplish a specific purpose.

  1. The student is able to contextualize the topic and research findings within the existing scholarly conversation.
  2. The student is able to synthesize and use the secondary literature to inform and frame their positions/arguments.
  3. The student is able to apply new and prior information to creating a particular product or performance.
  4. The student is able to determine what to incorporate into/cite in the research product; knows when to acknowledge other scholar's voices.
  5. The student is able to communicate the product or performance effectively in the style utilized by the discipline.
  6. The student is able to communicate the value of the research to a wider audience; it is well-argued and supported by evidence.

6. The student engages in ethical scholarly practices.

  1. The student can distinguish among common knowledge, original ideas and ideas requiring attribution.
  2. The student is able to use citations and references and appropriate formats.
  3. The student understands ethical and legal restrictions on the use of published, confidential and proprietary information.