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Information Seeking in a Nutshell

The Process for Solving Information Problems

  1. Introduction

    1. Do (and re-do) the six steps described below for solving information problems (These steps are described more fully by Michael B. Eisenberg and Robert E. Berkowitz in Information Problem-Solving: the Big Six Skills Approach to Library & Information Skills Instruction. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing, 1990).

    2. Research requires: Time, Patience, Creativity & problem-solving

    3. Ask a librarian for help whenever you need it

  2. Six Steps for Information Seeking

    1. Define the problem. What information do you need? What questions need to be answered?
      For research papers, you will need to:

      1. Choose a broad topic of interest

      2. Define and limit the topic (focus the topic more narrowly)

        1. Examine overview sources such as encyclopedias for ideas

        2. Search the broad topic in a magazine index and scan the titles for ideas

        3. Examine a couple of books on the broad topic for ways of narrowing the topic

      3. Determine what terms to use to describe the topic. For example, "animal rights," "rights of animals," "protection of animals," "animal(s) research," etc.

    2. Develop a strategy for finding the information. What types of source might contain the information? What are the best strategies for finding the information?

      1. Do you need a dictionary for definitions? a directory for an address? current articles and books? today's news in a print or web-based newspaper? Would the answer(s) be found in an encyclopedia, a fact book, a statistical handbook, etc.?

        1. Find current information in magazine, newspaper and journal articles and in radio/TV broadcasts

        2. Find more comprehensive information in books

        3. Consider other possible sources of information such as encyclopedias, handbooks, statistical compilations, dictionaries, directories.

      2. These sources may be an any format -- print, microform, electronic (on the Web or on CD-ROM).

      3. Review search techniques -- see "Search Techniques Table"

    3. Locate the information.

      1. Use search tools designed to find the sources you want

        1. Use research databases to find magazine, newspaper and journal articles. Examples of such databases are Ebsco's Academic Search Premier and Proquest's Research Library. For lists of research databases and their descriptions, go to the library home page and link to "Research Databases by Subject" or "Research Databases A-Z."

        2. Use the Library Catalog to find books in the Mundt Library and in other libraries in South Dakota. A link to "Library Catalog" is on the library home page.

        3. Use the Library Catalog to find fact books, books with statistics, dictionaries, etc. in the Mundt Library. A link to "Library Catalog" is on the library home page.

        4. Ask a librarian for assistance.

      2. Evaluate the search results

        1. Evaluate the items you find using at least these 5 criteria:

          • accuracy -- is the information reliable and error free?
            --Is there an editor or someone who verifies/checks the information?
            --Is there adequate documentation: bibliography, footnotes, credits?
            --Are the conclusions justified by the information presented?
          • authority -- is the source of the information reputable?
            --How did you find the source of information: an index to edited/peer-reviewed material, in a bibliography from a published article, etc.?
            --What type of source is it: sensationalistic, popular, scholarly?
          • objectivity -- does the information show bias?
            --What is the purpose of the information: to inform, persuade, explain, sway opinion, advertise?
            --Does the source show political or cultural biases?
          • currency -- is the information current? does it cover the time period you need?
          • coverage -- does it provide the evidence or information you need?
        2. Is the search producing the material you need? -- the right content? the right quality? right time period? right geographical location? etc. If not, are you using

          • the right sources?
          • the right tools to get to the sources?
          • are you using the right words to describe the topic?
        3. Have you discovered additional terms that should be searched? If so, search those terms.

        4. Have you discovered additional questions you need to answer? If so, return to section A above to begin to answer new questions

    4. Use the information.

      1. Read, hear or view the source

        1. a. Evaluate: Does the material answer your question(s)? -- right content? If not, return to B.

        2. b. Evaluate: Is the material appropriate? -- right quality? If not, return to B.

      2. Extract the information from the source : take notes, copy, cite

    5. Synthesize.

      1. Organize and integrate information from multiple sources

      2. Present the information (create report, speech, etc. that communicates)

      3. Citing Electronic and Print Documents: Resources

    6. Evaluate the paper, speech, or whatever communication tool you produced. Is it effective? Does it meet the requirements?


Last Updated: 2/16/12