Information Literacy, Research Process and Guide

Information Literacy

"Information literacy is the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information." (American Library Association, Association of College & Research Libraries). In this age of the internet and social media we are constantly bombarded with information. We all need the skills to find and use information efficiently and effectively. Practicing information literacy skills can help us be informed citizens and lifelong learners.

What is a research project?

A research project is part of a process by which we make an inquiry into a topic, create a thesis statement, then gather information to either refute or support the thesis. This requires a thought process that includes questioning all along the way, with a synthesis of that input near the end. Research projects may culminate in a variety of ways. In school or college that frequently involves a written research paper, while other end products may be posters, keynote presentations, etc.

The research process is a life skill that can be applied to any decision. Evaluating information helps us when we decide to buy a new car, or find a new doctor or dentist, or even may help us choose our careers and life path. We make decisions all day long, and all of them require some manner of information-gathering and evaluation.

Research Skills Tutorials

The Big 6

Basic format to help identify each step in the research process

Library Learning Commons

Research process outlined with links to help with each step of the project

Research Planning

California Polytechnic State University,
Robert E. Kennedy Library
Research Planning 101:
Ask, Explore, Gather, Choose, Use

Internet Detective

Online tutorial to help you discover the good and the bad on the internet

The Research Process

1. Read around your topic!Good resources for this are:
General nonfiction books on your topic (check your library browsers: MMS or MVHS)
Online encyclopedias
2. Ask good questionsQuestion Brainstormer
How to frame an historical research question
Cal Polytechnic Kennedy Library Research Planning
3. Develop a thesis statementBowdoin College Thesis Guide
Purdue Writing Lab, Tips for Writing a Thesis Statement
Thesis Generator
Tom March Thesis Builder & Online Outliner
4. Selecting sourcesNot all sources are suited to every topic, but most research projects should represent a variety of different sources
Primary sourcesOriginal materials from the time period being described
Photographs, letters, diaries, newspaper articles written at the time of the event, speeches, patents, birth certificates, marriage certificates, original music and works of art
Secondary sourcesInterpretations of events, usually but not always, after the events or time period
Most websites and nonfiction books, dictionaries, encyclopedias, newspapers, journals and magazines
Tertiary sourcesInformation which is distilled or collected from primary and secondary sources
Almanacs, bibliographies, most textbooks, chronologies, directories, fact books
Magazine vs. Journal sourcesPiedmont College Library lists the difference between them

News & Analysis or Commentary
Popular & General Interest/Sensational
5. Analyzing and Evaluating SourcesThink carefully about the sources you use. Evaluate them for authenticity. Use a guide like
Internet Detective: Thinking Critically about Web Resources
Multnomah County Library's Guide
UC Berkeley Library's Guide
6. Taking NotesWhile taking notes, keep track of your sources. Continue application of critical questioning as you read.
The key to good note-taking is reading through a chapter or a selection first. Don't take notes down until you can think about what you just read, and what were the main points that add specifics to your topic. Then go back and do your notes.
The Library Learning Commons has great tips on evaluating texts for bias, and how to tell fact from opinion in reference sources:
Tips for Avoiding Unintentional Plagiarism (Are these my own words?)
LinksOn the iPad, use Notability or an Index Card App
Hints for Good Note Taking (Chapman University)
How to Take Notes from a Book
Hack My Study: Taking Notes from a Textbook
7. Documentation/CitationYou must cite all the sources you use in your research, each of which must be listed in your bibliography
See the MMS page for some links and guidelines
Easy Bib
CitationFox, MLA Style
List of free citation generators from State U of New York
EasyBib's Parenthetical & In-Text Citation Guide
8. Organization and SynthesisPutting it all together means organizing your information, drawing your conclusions, writing, editing and creating your final product
DropMind on your iPad is a graphic organizer
Eduplace Graphic Organizers
Purdue OWL: How to Write a Conclusion
Gallaudet University: Tips for Writing Introductions and Conclusions
Time4Writing: Strategies for an Effective Conclusion
9. Final Product and EvaluationWritten reports may be done on your iPads using Pages. Other options for presenting your research include Explain Everything, Prezi, Keynote, iMovie
EvaluateTake a look at the research process you used. Could it have been more efficient?
How do you think your final product represents your research? Does it support your thesis statement?