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Scholary Communication Lesson Toolkit

Resources for teaching information privilege and open access

The toolkit below is designed to help teach undergraduates concepts at the intersections between information literacy and scholarly communication. We hope to add to this toolkit as we develop more materials. If you have any questions or would like to discuss ways to incorporate this content into your classroom please contact Carolyn Caffrey Gardner (Information Literacy Coordinator) and Dana Ospina (Digital Initatives Librarian).

The activity and accompanying resources focus on the following learning outcomes:

  • Students will be able to recognize that some scholarly information is only available for those who subscribe
  • Students will be able to explain the difference between green open access and subscription journal models in order to identify issues of power and access in dissemination of scholarship

Choose Your Own Scenario Activity

This "Choose Your Own Scenario" give students a chance to experience accessing scholarly research for a specific real-life need after they no longer have institutional access. It can be assigned in a flipped-classroom setting before a library-led workshops, used for in-class group work, or assigned as homework in all disciplines.

It takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Some questions in the scenario are adapted from the work presented in Hare, S. & Evanson, C. (2018). Information privilege outreach for undergraduate students. College and Research Libraries.

Complementary Activities

The following are suggestions for reinforcing the content on the "Choose Your Own Scenario" activity:


If the Choose Your Own Scenario is assigned before class or at the beginning of a workshop:


  • Follow up with a traditional library workshop on finding scholarly information and having students take note of whether or not it is freely available by analyzing the journal and using plug-ins like Unpaywall

    • Great for all lower-division students

  • For students about to be publishing their own work through Research Day Posters, a collaborative project with faculty, a student journal, etc. consider providing information on publishing and licensing your own content. Sarah Crissinger Hare at Indiana University has shared some worksheets designed for different disciplines that are freely licensed to adapt at:

    • Great for students publishing information

  • Use a problem-based learning exercise where students have to access information with different levels of access. An example for health sciences can be found and adapted from at:

    • Great for upper-division and graduate students in their major

If the Choose Your Own Scenario is assigned for homework or at the end of a lesson:

  • Consider beginning with information on evaluating journals and other publications

    • Great for lower-division students in a GE course

  • Consider beginning by discussing the life-cycle of scholarly information or using this short video from UNLV:

    • Great for lower-division students in their major

How have you used this activity in your classroom? Share your suggestions with Carolyn Caffrey Gardner and Dana Ospina to see them added here!

Discussion Points & Resources

Discussion points and additional resources:

  • "Scholarly publishing functions as a “gift economy” where authors, peer reviewers, and editors volunteer their labor for the prestige it brings, not for financial remuneration. It is important for us to help students recognize that most scientific, scholarly, or artistic work done within the academic setting is not undertaken primarily for direct economic profit. Nevertheless, publishers profit from scholarship, and have incentives to limit access, while scholars are more concerned with their work being discovered and valued. Librarians can help students and faculty understand that this information ecosystem inhibits their access to needed materials and limits their ability to control the dissemination of their own work." - Association of College and Research Libraries. (2013). Intersections of scholarly communication and information literacy: Creating strategic collaborations for a changing academic environment. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries.

  • "Once students understand how the collective impact of individual author choices affects their own loss of access at graduation, they can better understand how their choices regarding own work, however small, have significance and broader implications for the information access of others." - Hare, S. & Evanson, C. (2018). Information privilege outreach for undergraduate students. College and Research Libraries [online ahead of publication].

  • Right to Research Coalition - An organize that advocates and educates on the issues of open access with resources to help others take action.

  • CSUDH Research Guide on Open Access

Creative Commons License
This toolkit is licensed by Carolyn Caffrey Gardner and Dana Ospina under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.