Oct 04, 2002 by Information Technology Editorial Board
This site is a comprehensive tutorial in introductory information literacy, and in doing research using the University of Buffalo library facilities, and the databases accessible there. It is well organized to be used as an introduction or for occasional reference. The topics covered include, how to choose a topic, locating background information, finding library materials, finding articles, finding Web resources, evaluating resources, and citing sources.
To teach students (at the University of Buffalo, especially) basic information literacy, both the (UB) library and Internet and web research facilities, and become information literate.
Target Student Population:
Undergraduates learning introductory information literacy skills and basic library materials use (at UB). Also comprehensive enough it should be useful for occasional reference and refresher.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Only basic web browsing skills are required.
Type of Material:
Any web browser would appear to be suitable.
Evaluation and Observation
This site provides an excellent and comprehensive introductory coverage of the information literacy research process. The author gives the user a firm foundation in the methods of research.
It is somewhat restricted to the University of Buffalo context, since others won't have access (through this site) to such resources as the InfoTrac OneFile database and other databases listed on the "Using Databases" page, or the Oxford Reference Online. Many (if not most) examples are also quite U.S.A. specific.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The comprehensive coverage of the research process using the resources available at UB should make it very useful as a teaching tool there, and some of the content is generally applicable to others too. The excellent aspect of the Research Assistant is that it is flexible enough for the teacher (or user) to choose the needed area. It is a great benefit to those students who are the traditional, "use it in the time of need" students.
Its dependence upon UB's automated library system, restricted access to databases and some other resources make it less useful as a general teaching tool to other than UB. Also, it lacks the interactivity, self-testing, and other exercises that would be needed for reinforcing the concepts.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Clean and simple layout and design, with excellent use of font style and size, and "horizontal rules" to separate sections. The design and layout draws the user to the screen. The images used helps brings the site to life.
Font size for running text is quite small. There are no interactive exercises or self-tests or summaries--just reading. Some pages, such as "Reference Databases" would be improved by a "local TOC" (in this case a list of the databases) before the narrative.
Other Issues and Comments:
Somewhat restricted to use at UB, but some good general material worth browsing by others.