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Integrating the thematic approach into information literacy courses

Elizabeth Price (University Libraries, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, USA)
Rebecca Richardson (University Libraries, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to review selected publications in library-related literature and discuss the thematic approach to course design in colleges and universities and how it has been implemented into information literacy (IL) courses.


A literature review of peer-reviewed journals, professional journals, magazines and blogs contextualizes the thematic approach to instruction at the college and university levels. Search terms included “thematic approach”, “thematic approach in education” and “theme-based instruction”; the search was restricted to articles published in the past 20 years.


In addition to the IL courses, thematic-based instruction has been used in biology, chemistry, English, French literature, history, mathematics, philosophy and sociology courses in college and university campuses. While instructors report that the thematic approach enhances student learning, few studies have directly tested the impact. No studies have been published within the library science literature.


Thematic approach is a newer concept in the world of IL instruction. While many professional journal articles and blog posts provide in-depth case studies of how thematic-based instruction has been implemented, this article draws from all disciplines and features a succinct summary of what works, what does not work and how to best implement a thematic approach in an IL course.



The authors would like to thank George Bergstrom, librarian at Sullivan University in Louisville, KY, USA, for his help in developing the idea that led to this article.


Price, E. and Richardson, R. (2015), "Integrating the thematic approach into information literacy courses", Reference Services Review, Vol. 43 No. 1, pp. 125-136.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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