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FYS-101 Information Literacy Lessons 2023-24

This guide contains the information literacy lessons for the SNHU First Year Seminar FYS-101 course offered on campus for the 2023-24 academic year.

What is a Secondary Source?

You will begin searching for secondary sources to learn more about your team's Collection and efforts to recognize, resist, or repair the injustices connected to your Collection theme.

Play In-class Interactive Video/Game: Wheel of Sources!

Play first five rounds only.

This game was created by Kian Ravaei (Learner-Designer at WI+RE at UCLA) & Jen Pierre (User Experience and Human-Computer Interaction researcher at Google Stadia).


Class Discussion-Defining a Secondary Source

  • Based on what you learned in the game, and what you have learned about primary sources, how is a secondary source different than a primary source?
  • When are secondary sources created in relation to an historical event or trend (in the Information Cycle)?
  • Why do you think secondary sources are created?

Researching - Secondary Sources 

FYS Research Project - Information Need

You will be searching for secondary sources about your topic and its connection to your Collection's theme. In particular you will be seeking information about efforts to raise awareness about or repair the injustices of your Collection’s “hard history.” Examples of these might include: individuals who fought for equal rights (hidden heroes), group resistance efforts, reparations, or changes in laws.

Steps for Conducting Research

  1. Determine your INFORMATION NEED: You want to know HOW your TOPIC connects to your Collection THEME
  2. Brainstorm potential search terms related to your topic
  3. Identify where you will search for sources (For FYS we will focus on web searches, for other research projects you might choose library resources, people to interview, archives, etc.)
  4. Google a question that asks how your TOPIC connects to your Collection THEME (try a couple of versions of your question)
  5. Read through the titles (and website names) of your results and select any helpful sources
  6. Read the content of the articles you selected
  7. Identify key ideas: Record key information, additional search terms, phrases, and questions from your sources.
  8. Revise and build on your search terms and search again!

Finding Secondary Sources Assignment

  • Download the document below.
  • You will conduct searches to locate two high quality secondary sources about your topic.
  • You will then create MLA style citations for each source. (Click on the MLA Citation tab on the left of this screen if you need help creating citations for your two sources.) 
  • After you read each source, you will write three key ideas you learned from each source about your topic or what has been done to raise awareness about, or repair the injustices of your Collection's "hard history."
  • When you are finished, save your work, and upload it to the Finding Secondary Sources Assignment in your Brightspace course.

Searching for Secondary Sources

Identifying Search Terms

Search results are only as good as the words (keywords or search terms) you enter.


Choosing Keywords

Review: What are the three steps discussed in the video? 

  1. Write your question
  2. Find the key concepts (circle the main words)
  3. Write synonyms for each of the main words

Exercise: Download the Search Terms Document below, follow these steps, then save your document to use in the next exercise. 

  1. Write your topic and/or Collection theme as a question.
  2. Highlight the keywords in your question, and list them below your question.
  3. Write a synonym for at least one of your keywords.

Examples of questions from the Sample Collection:

  • How do fugitive slave ads connect to the criminal justice system and injustices to Black people?
  • What were Ida B. Wells' efforts to end the criminalization of Black people?
  • Why are Black people incarcerated at disproportionately higher rates?

Example Collection: Doing Time. Image of fugitive slave ad for Oney Judge 1796; image of Black Codes, laws of the Jim Crow Era 1855-68; poster of Ida B. Wells (circa 1865-80)and photo of children in the convict lease system (crica 1903); political cartoon of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986; chart showing disproportionate incarceration rates of Black people, 2020.

Finding Keywords & Key Ideas While You Search

After you conduct a search and find a source, you may look for new search terms in that source. Watch the video below which uses one source from the Example Collection and demonstrates how to use the embedded link in the individual primary source to go to an article to locate new keywords to search for information on your topic.


Finding Keywords in a Source Exercise

  • Read the article at the link embedded in your primary source on your Collection Card This link opens in a new window 
  • Find keywords in that article and record them on your Search Terms document
  • Write down any words you don't know the meaning of, look them up, paste the definition next to the word on your Search Terms document
  • Revisit the article and identify one key idea that suggests efforts to raise awareness about, resist, or repair the injustices of your Collections "hard history." Write this key idea on your Search Terms document
  • Save your Search Terms document and upload it to your Team's shared Google folder

Try a Search...

Select a promising search term/phrase from your Search Terms document and try it out in Google to locate a secondary source for your final research project. Your assignment requires you to find two secondary sources about your topic and its connection to your Collection theme including efforts to raise awareness or repair those injustices.

*The article embedded in your primary source may not be included as one of your two sources for this assignment.


Selecting Results from your Google search:
  • Read the titles of the results on the first full page of your results list
  • Do these appear to have potential to provide information about your Collection's topic or its connection to the theme? 
  • Before you click on a result, look at the website name/URL beneath the result title. Do you recognize that source? Is it from a reputable news site, a research organization, or a museum or other reliable agency? If not, look it up and find out more about it. Having an idea where the information you are about to read comes from, before you spend your precious time reading it is the first step in evaluating information for any use (personal, school, work, etc.)

Need help finding quality sources?

  • Help is always available using the "Chat 24/7 with a Librarian" link in the upper right corner of this page
  • Email for help

Evaluating Secondary Sources

Whole Class Discussion & Introduction

Open two tabs on your laptop for the two secondary sources you located on your primary source/collection theme for homework due today.


  • What makes you sure your sources are "secondary sources?" 
  • How do we "evaluate" a secondary source?
    • Did anyone use Lateral Reading when they selected their secondary sources? If so, what did you learn?

Introduction to Assignment

The process of evaluating secondary sources involves Lateral Reading (leaving the source to verify its content) by answering questions such as the following.

  • Who created it? (Author and/or Publisher)
  • When was it created? (Context)
  • For whom was it created? (Audience)
  • Why was it created? (Purpose)

Individual In-class Work

  • Download the "Evaluating Secondary Sources Assignment" below. It has two pages, one for your first source and one for your second source.
  • Select one of your two secondary sources.
  • Enter your name, your Primary Source from your Collection Card, your Collection theme, and the MLA citation for this secondary source on the first page of the assignment. Then answer the questions.

Whole Class Discussion 

Use what you wrote on your Evaluating Secondary Sources Assignment above to answer these questions below in your whole class discussion.

  • Who created your source? (Author)
    • Share what you learned about your authors. Do you think they have the authority to write/create this source? Why or why not?
    • Whose voices were not included in the creation of your secondary source? 
    • Why might it be important to get sources authored by different groups of people involved with your topic at different points in the Information Cycle? 
  • When was it created? (Context)
    • In general, what is going on in society at the time that this secondary source was created? (Civil War? Controversial events? Etc.)
    • Why might it be important to know when your secondary source was created?
  • For whom was it created? (Audience)
    • Who is supposed to see this source, and how can you tell?
  • Why was it created? (Purpose) 
    • What do you think the author's purpose was for creating your secondary source? (Ex: To inform? To persuade people to belief or action? To analyze an event/trend?) 
    • Why might it important to think about the motivation behind the creation of a source?

Key Questions for Class Discussion

  • Why is it important to know if what you're reading/viewing/listening to is a primary or secondary source?
  • Does every source contain a bias?
  • What do we as the "consumer" of information need to know/do when looking at information of various types?
  • How do we use primary source from the past to tell a story about today? 

Evaluating Secondary Sources Assignment

You already downloaded and completed an evaluation during class on one of the secondary sources you found. Now, go back to that assignment form again, scroll down to the second page, complete it for the SECOND secondary source you found on your topic/Collection theme. Upload that one document with both source evaluations on it to the Evaluating Secondary Sources Assignment in Brightspace.