final version approved by S&G Apr 2013 - ALA Connect

Information Literacy Guidelines and Competencies for Undergraduate
History Students
Draft Submitted to RUSA S&G 4/3/2013
Developed by the Instruction and Research Services Committee, History Section,
Reference and User Services Association, American Library Association, 2012.
Introduction & Purpose
Historical research presents unique challenges in understanding, identifying, acquiring,
evaluating, and using information. It also requires understanding and respecting the
ethics of the historical discipline as well as a concern for examining all aspects of
historical scholarship and the body of historical literature. These standards, which are
to be used in conjunction with the Association of College and Research Libraries’
“Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education,” are a measurable
set of proficiencies required for successful historical research by undergraduate
This document has multiple purposes. It is intended to inform students of basic skills
required for historical study; to provide a framework for faculty and librarians to assess
those skills; to aid faculty in designing research methods classes, assignments, and
projects; and to encourage collaboration between librarians and faculty in teaching,
course design, and assessment of undergraduate history education.
1. Understands the structure of historical information and the historical research
1.1 Understands the difference between primary and secondary sources.
1.2 Understands that primary sources exist in a variety of formats, including
books, periodicals, manuscripts, audio, still images, maps, and moving images.
Primary sources can be in digital and/or analog or physical formats, and some
unique materials can only be accessed at specific locations.
1.3 Understands that secondary and tertiary sources are produced and
disseminated in a variety of types and formats, including monographs, scholarly
journal articles, conference proceedings, scholarly lectures or talks, dissertations,
historical catalogs, indexes, encyclopedias, handbooks, and statistical data.
1.4 Differentiates between serious and credible popular treatments of a historical
topic and peer-reviewed, scholarly analyses written by and for historians.
1.5 Distinguishes resource types and formats in standard citations.
2. Identifies and locates historical research sources through appropriate
methods, techniques, and tools.
2.1 Identifies appropriate tools and resources for specific research questions,
recognizing and distinguishing the differences between online library catalogs,
WorldCat, and general and subject-specific periodical indexes.
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2.1.1 Effectively identifies and uses relevant online databases and print
sources, both at the researcher’s institution and at other institutions.
Understands the differences between these types of resources and an
Internet search.
2.1.2 Consults reference resources that are authoritative, current, and
most relevant to the topic.
2.2 When searching databases and search engines, considers and applies the
most suitable techniques. Examples include:
2.2.1 Uses appropriate search techniques in the right circumstances (e.g.,
Boolean searches, keyword, and subject or controlled vocabulary
searches, truncation, wildcards, and phrase searches).
2.2.2 Knows when to narrow or broaden terms; uses synonyms when
original terms do not bring results; utilizes new terms as found.
2.4.3 Uses subject headings/controlled vocabulary to discover related
2.3 Applies specific search strategies to locate primary sources.
2.3.1 Uses appropriate subject headings such as “sources” or “diaries,” or
searches by a corporate author, such as “Great Britain. Parliament,” in
online or print catalogs or databases.
2.3.2 Utilizes print indexes to identify sources when appropriate.
2.3.3 Identifies archives that may contain useful sources and uses finding
aids to identify material in archival or manuscript collections.
2.3.4 Recognizes the need to use historically appropriate terms when
searching full-text primary source databases.
2.4 Distinguishes between types of sources when results include multiple types
(e.g., between primary and secondary sources, or between books and articles).
2.5 Mines references from secondary sources and uses source-appropriate tools
to locate them.
3. Critically evaluates and interprets the body of historical research uncovered.
3.1 Evaluates each source and determines if it is primary or secondary, scholarly
or popular.
3.2 Recognizes that there are gaps in the historical record.
3.3 Thinks critically about the credibility of sources.
3.4 Determines and considers the credentials and intent of all authors before
using any source.
3.5 Considers how the historical context in which the information was originally
created, accessed, and distributed affects its message.
3.6 Contextualizes primary and secondary source materials within the larger
historiographical debate.
4. Uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose and to develop a
historical argument.
4.1 Develops a clear historical question and addresses it with an organized
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4.2 Synthesizes information from a wide range of sources, including a variety of
formats and viewpoints.
4.3 Substantiates argument with evidence from primary and secondary sources.
4.4 Acknowledges, concedes, or refutes evidence that runs counter to an
5. Understands and respects the ethical conventions of the historical discipline.
5.1 Does not fabricate, falsify, or willfully misrepresent sources, evidence, and
5.2 Understands that documents and evidence (primary sources) used to make
a historical argument must be properly cited so that other researchers can verify
sources and research methods.
5.3 Understands that the work of other researchers and scholars must be
acknowledged and properly cited.
5.4 Respects the rights and welfare of individuals during the research process by
following the Human Subjects requirements associated with oral history
interviews; adheres to privacy policies concerning confidential and sensitive
information when examining and using private records.
5.5 Respects preservation concerns related to handling and using historical
materials and makes every effort to ensure their use for future researchers.
Association of College and Research Libraries. “Information Literacy Competency
Standards for Higher Education.” Accessed March 15, 2012.
Association of College and Research Libraries, Literatures in English Section.
“Research Competency Guidelines for Literatures in English.” Last modified June 2007,
accessed March 15, 2012.
Presnell, Jenny L. The Information-Literate Historian. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2012.
Smith College Libraries. “Smith College History Majors Research Skills.” Last modified
May 15, 2007, accessed March 15, 2012.
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Supporting Documentation
1. Cite related guidelines and standards used to develop this guideline.
a. In addition to those listed in the reference section of the draft, we consulted the following:
i.Association of College and Research Libraries, Anthropology and Sociology Section,
“Information Literacy Standards for Anthropology and Sociology Students.”
ii.Association of College and Research Libraries, Law and Political Science Section,
“Political Science Research Competency Guidelines,”
iii.Association of College and Research Libraries, Science and Technology Section,
“Information Literacy Standards for Science and Technology.”
2. List the ALA divisions, committees and units, individuals, and other interested parties consulted
during the development of the guideline. Have each of these contacts seen the draft that is being
presented to the Standards and Guidelines Committee? None
3. List the dates when the guideline was submitted to:
a. Originating unit, S/G Committee for initial review June 1, 2012
b. S/G Committee for formal approval Not applicable
c. RUSA Board for information/review Not applicable
4. List the name of the section and the date the guideline was approved by that section's executive
committee. Not applicable
5. Define the audience and purpose of the guideline, and provide a brief history of its development.
a. Audience: Undergraduate History Students, History Faculty, Librarians
b. Purpose: to provide a set of realistic and assessable competences for undergraduate
history students
c. History: The History Section’s Instruction and Research Services Committee began
discussing the need for standards at Annual 2009. The Committee worked on the
standards through Annual 2011. At that point a small Ad-Hoc group was formed to
complete this task. Throughout this process the committee has followed all steps in
creating guidelines as outlined in the RUSA Guide to Policies and Procedures, Chapter 4:
6. Include contact person and date of submission.
a. Chair, Ad-Hoc Information Literacy Standards Committee: Sara E. Morris,, 785.864.8907
b. History Section Standards & Guidelines Representative: Charles B. Thurston,
c. Submitted to Standards and Guidelines for initial review June 1, 2012
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Checklist for Creation or Revision of a RUSA Guideline
Guideline Title: Information Literacy Standards and Competencies for Undergraduate
History Students
Most recent publication date: Not applicable
Where it was published: Not applicable
Date draft or review initiated: June 1, 2012
Anticipated completion date:
Sponsoring RUSA unit: History Section
Contact person e‑ mail address:
Sponsoring units should review RUSA guidelines at least every seven years, and either revise or
recommend withdrawal; however, committees are encouraged to review/revise guidelines more often if
needed. Please refer to Chapter 4 of RUSA Guide to Policies and Procedures for procedures and a
sample model outline for the desirable format. Creating a new guideline may take from one-three
years.This checklist is designed to assist RUSA committees as they create new guidelines and revise
existing ones. Members of the RUSA Standards and Guidelines Committee (S/G) welcome opportunities
to assist sponsoring units in this important activity.
Specify purpose, audience, and need for this guideline. Is there expertise available to
create it? Write a brief justification for developing, revising, or withdrawing the document and send it to
the chair of S/G.
Identify related documents. Are there other related RUSA guidelines? ALA standards or
guidelines? Are official documents referred to? Are they still in effect? [Current RUSA guidelines are
posted on the RUSA Website; some ALA units have additional items posted on their specific sites.]
Notify RUSA Executive Director of intent to revise or create a guideline and request that
S/G Chair appoint S/G liaison.
○ e-mailed Larayne Dallas, S&G Chair, August 19, 2009
○ e-mailed Susan Hornung, RUSA Executive Director, September 18, 2009
○ Charles Thurston appointed S&G Representative, November 11, 2009
Develop first draft.
Distribute first draft for comment (section chair, RUSA Executive Director, Chair of S/G.
○ Specify when and where: Via e-mail June 1, 2012
Attend meeting of S/G for feedback (Midwinter or Annual Conference).Date: June 1, 2012
If S/G recommends, request input from RUSA membership. (Post draft on RUSA
Website, place notice in RUSA Update and on RUSA‑ L , etc.) Sent draft seeking
comment to RUSA-L, History-L, Histbib-L.
If S/G recommends, hold public hearing at ALA Midwinter or Annual Conference. Date:
Send revised draft to solicit comment from committees, individuals, and organizations
identified by RUSA Executive Director and RUSA Standards & Guidelines Committee.
Date sent to: Sent 9/14/2012
_____10. Review comments, incorporate necessary revisions, and send final draft to S/G. Date sent:
_____11. Upon S/G approval, send final draft to chair of the appropriate RUSA section for section
approval. Date sent:
_____12 Upon Section approval, send final draft and documentation to S/G and RUSA Executive
Director at least one month prior to conference. Date sent:
Please be certain that all copies distributed are clearly labeled ‘draft’ or ‘final’ and dated.
Checklist Revised 10/06
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