Educators like Tamara F. O’Callaghan, professor of English at Northern Kentucky University and Dan Connor, adjunct professor at the University of Scranton and Associate Editor of the MLA International Bibliography (MLAIB), integrate teaching tools from the Modern Language Association (MLA) into their course curricula. The tools teach students foundational research skills using the MLA International Bibliography (MLAIB) and save time for educators. Read their accounts of using these resources.

Tamara F. O’Callaghan, Professor, Northern Kentucky University

Northern Kentucky University is a teaching-intensive public university that has “adopted GEARUP with Information Literacy as the Quality Enhancement Plan for 2019-2024. The five-year plan focuses on helping students gather, evaluate, apply, and respect information so that students graduate with the knowledge and skills to be critical information consumers and creators.”

O’Callaghan says, “I have been using the MLA International Bibliography course in my classes for the past few years, with considerable success.” She assigns the course in her Freshman Composition class and finds that the skills taught are applicable to other databases, in addition to the MLAIB, and the course is particularly helpful in teaching students how to use a thesaurus and key words.

To ensure students in her English classes understand the relevance of the course, O’Callaghan assigns it as the first step in a larger research assignment. An example of the learning objectives and individual assignments O’Callaghan shared are below:

  • Objective: Learn the basics of effective database searching and apply those skills to locate appropriate resources in a field of English Studies using the MLA International Bibliography.
  • Duration: Eight weeks
  • Three sequential assignments:
    • MLA International Bibliography Online Course for digital badge (25 points)
    • Group Research Activity with Annotated Bibliography (50 points)
    • Group PowerPoint Presentation with Audio (100 points)
  • Discussion Board Postings on Presentations of Other Groups (25 points)

The course and assignments provide opportunity for wide-ranging discussion about topics including:

  • Teaching emerging genres in literature, such as the graphic novel
  • Narrowing search results
  • Discovering unexpected and diverse resources
  • The differences between content types such as journal articles, books, book reviews, edited collections and dissertations

Several of O’Callaghan’s colleagues have used the course over the past few semesters and, like her, welcome its turnkey nature. Callaghan says, “During this pandemic, it’s actually been an unexpected asset in the sense that having something I could give to students that they do largely on their own and gets graded while I’m struggling to get my course completely into an online hyflex format was really helpful.”

In addition to teaching valuable research skills and saving faculty time, using the MLAIB and the online course has helped the English department demonstrate its ability to meet the university-wide information literacy goals for students. The library’s continued MLAIB subscription has been essential to this achievement.

O’Callaghan says, ‘I have been using the MLA International Bibliography course in my classes for the past few years, with considerable success.

Dan Connor, Associate Editor of the MLA International Bibliography & Adjunct Professor in the English and Theatre Department at the University of Scranton

As Associate Editor of the MLAIB, Dan Connor has spent close to two decades working on the Bibliography. He recently returned to teaching and incorporated the MLAIB’s free online course into his syllabus. This past semester, Connor assigned the online course in a class he taught at the University of Scranton, “ENLIT 140, English Inquiry.” The university subscribes to the MLA International Bibliography with Full Text and, by completing the course, Connor’s students learned how to:

  • Use the MLA International Bibliography database for college-level research
  • Use keywords, subject terms, and the thesaurus
  • Understand search results and recognize the parts of Bibliography records in order to locate full-text publications
  • Research the history of a scholarly topic or publication, using advanced search techniques and publication date limiters
  • Describe the scope and purpose of the MLA International Bibliography

The 90-minute course provided students with a solid understanding of the purpose and function of the MLAIB, allowing Connor to use the database in class to do the following:

  • Expose students to relevant scholarly publications and to literary criticism in general
  • Encourage intellectual curiosity and stimulate in-class discussion
  • Develop research writing skills (e.g., the importance of using textual evidence to support your argument; how to use a work of literary criticism as a point of departure for original analysis)

In assigning the online course and using the MLA International Bibliography with Full Text database in class, Connor’s main objective is that students “learn basic and advanced techniques for using the MLAIB to research critical responses to literary texts.” In this webinar, he offers some specific examples of how he used the Bibliography in the classroom to create assignments, jumpstart class discussions and broaden critical perspectives. It has been especially gratifying for Connor to witness how students interact with the research tool he has spent so many years building and developing.

Watch the webinar, “Engaging Literature Students in the Virtual Classroom with the MLA International Bibliography,” to hear in-depth accounts from Tamara O’Callaghan and Dan Connor, and for background on the course from the course creators, Angela Ecklund, Thesaurus Editor and Tutorial and Instructional Technology Producer, MLA International Bibliography and Farrah Lehman Den, Associate Index Editor and Instructional Technology Producer, MLA International Bibliography.