Faculty & Staff
Alumni & Friends
How do I become an information literate lifelong learner?
Information Literacy and Process Models
A librarian’s goal is to help patrons become lifelong learners that are information and technologically literate users of information. No one can know it all in this information rich environment so knowing how to find it is crucial.
This merging of skills includes the development of general literacy, the ability to read, write and use numbers, as well as critical thinking and problem solving abilities.
An important aspect of this 21st century skill set is called information literacy, or the ability to identify an information need and then locate, collect, organize, evaluate, and use the information effectively. Information literacy demands the ability to use critical thinking when evaluating information resources.
A key way to develop this important skill is to use an information problem solving model. This technique helps to process the vast amounts of information available today and compartmentalize the search into a set of defined steps and is called a applying a process model toassist students in organizing research.
Research is more than just keyword Google searching and berry picking web sites from the first page of your results. It demands a set of skills to use to navigate various information sources and a process to follow to be successful.
There are many process models used by individual today. For this handout we are using Carol Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP). The following six steps will act as a guide in research work. http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm
1. Initiation: Initiating the process
What is the assignment? What is known about the topic and what needs to be found out? Who is the audience? How are the ideas to be communicated? What embellishments can be made to the product to make it come alive and communicate in style?
2. Selection: Selecting a topic
Brainstorm, investigate, and follow the interest factor.
This is one of the hardest parts for any research to narrow or broaden a search to create a good topic.
3. Exploration: Exploring the topic, consulting sources
When engaged in research, keep a research journal. This Preliminary research or prewriting activity helps to focus the mind and finds answers to the questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. The results of the preliminary investigation are a more concentrated and achievable research topic, a better grasp of the subject and a larger number of subject terms to begin the research process. In other words, the inquiry process begins with a firm foundation from which to erect the project.
A great way to begin this is by using reference resources such as an encyclopedia. It is often useful to begin with an information search with an encyclopedia article on the topic and broaden the search to other reference resources like an almanac, biographical dictionary an atlas. The more you know about the topic, the easier it is to not only locate information about it but to actually create the project. Every library has a reference collection where these types of tools can be found. There are also a great many reference resources on the web or electronic versions subscribed to by the library. Examples of these at Western include:
To find the full text version of the encyclopedia from the library homepage, click “Databases,” then click the letter, “E.”
World Book Encyclopedia
To find the full text version of the encyclopedia from the library homepage, click “databases,” then click the letter, “W.”
There are many other helpful reference sources under “Databases” on the library homepage, click on “Reference Databases.” Don’t forget the print reference collection housed in the library on the first floor.
Always used advanced search techniques with any information sources.
4. Formulation: Formulating a focused perspective or thesis
The topic has been chosen, basic research has been done and have a thread is available to follow, what is the thesis of the research project?
A thesis Statement is a debatable point or claim from which hangs to research project.
5. Collection: Collecting resources
Public Access Catalog, Journal Databases, and Internet—what other things should be included? Don’t forget interviews with experts, professional associations, and so forth.
6. Presentation: Presenting your ideas and Assessing the Results
Now the research project is ready to be communicated with an audience. What means will be employed to share what has been learned with the audience? Is it going to be in the form of a paper, chart or poster, or PowerPoint, video, Blog, Wiki or other social networking tool or web page? How is technology going to be used in the final product to make it come alive: video clips, still pictures, charts and graphs, color and font variations? The sky is the limit! Once the presentation is down evaluate the process and product.
The most important thing of all is to have fun learning something new!
Rather than beginning with a Google keyword search, an information literate person uses advanced search techniques for conducting a focused information search.
Library Gateway: The Library Web Site
From the My UMW link, select the “Library” link or use the following URL to open the door to information:
STEP 1 – Search the library collection
How to find what the library owns: Use the Public Access Catalog (PAC)
The PAC is located at the following URL or can be found by clicking on the “Catalog” link one the library web page. It accesses the information resources of the UM library system.
· The PAC defaults to the “Short View” or just the bibliographic citation, but make use of the “Long View” to see more information about the item and any related subject headings to refine the search as-well-as the “Contents” features. Other features that are useful include “Bookbag” to create a digital bibliography of the search, “Holds”, to have any item owned by a UM system library to be mailed to the Western for the patron, and “Saved Searches” to save and rerun searches are also excellent resources.
What is Primo?
What you can Search Using Primo
Creating a List of Subject Headings
The goal with the PAC is to begin the development of a good list of subject headings to further the search in the catalog as well as other information sources as the research is continues.
The PAC contains a great many print books, electronic books, and other information sources in various formats. They are organized according to the Dewey decimal system, which is used in libraries in America and other countries. In fact, noting the Dewey numbers for a search gives the researcher the “address” to browse the collection for related books on the topic.
What are Advanced Search Techniques?
Always use the advanced search features with any information source. The databases all contain instructions on how to use the advance search functions.
Learn what the Public Access Catalog all periodical databases and Internet search engines have in common. The following list examples of advanced search features found in digital resources:
Other advanced search techniques include the following:
Advanced search features in print resources include the following:
Table of Contents
STEP 2 -- Search the databases
To find the periodical Databases, click on the “Database” link on the library web page or use the following URL:
Databases are collections of electronic information such as magazine or journal articles. What databases would be best for an information search? The databases titles subscribed to at Western can be viewed in two ways. The first is alphabetically by title or they can also be grouped by academic subjects.
Multiple Subject Databases:
A good way to begin a periodical search is by using a database that works for all subjects. The library calls these “multidisciplinary databases” and they will help with any search. You could also go to the title in the alphabetical list by clicking on the letter that begins the title of the database. The following are the library’s trinity of these tools:
What about JSTOR? WWW.JSTOR.ORG is often mentioned by students as one of their favorites. It is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content on a trusted digital archive. This database has a different focus than the database titles listed above and the others on our website. Journals in JSTOR are always included from volume 1, issue 1 and include previous and unrelated titles. Since 2011, current issues for more than 150 journals are available on JSTOR out of a total collection of more than 1,400 scholarly journals archived in the collection. The rest of our databases on the library’s website focus on the current and not the retrospective and include holdings from the mid1990’s forward.
Subject Specific Databases:
The library also has many databases that are specific to a particular filed. The following is a list of databases by filed. To search, select the field of interest, click it and select at database from the list:
Advanced Search Techniques also Work When Using Databases
How to find print or digital journals owned by the library?
The library subscribes to a vast number of print and electronic titles. To find what Western’s library journal resources, the years held, and whether they are full text has access to and in what format, select the “E-Journal” link on the library home page and type in the journal title information and press search or use the following URL:
Tip: Don’t forget Primo works for periodical databases as well as searching all our holdings on a subject regardless of format with one search.
Borrowing an Item from another Library outside the UM system Libraries
Inter-Library Loan (ILL)
Can’t find an information item in Dillon? We’ll get it for you through ILL, use the following URL to find out how:
Online Shelf Holds for Items owned in the UM System of Libraries
You can also put a hold on any item found in a catalog search of any other of the UM system libraries. Just click on Hold in the actions area of the PAC. This action will require a student to logon with their 8000 number and last name.
Hold appears under “Actions” once the title of the item has been selected in the Public Access Catalog http://catalog.lib.umt.edu/vwebv/searchBasic?sk=western
STEP 3 – Search the Internet
Notable sites to use for scholarly papers:
The Internet Public Library
The business link on the homepage takes you to business-related reference resources. The Internet Public Library was founded by the University of Michigan School of Information. Librarians, Library Professors, and Library Students have compiled the best research materials that are freely available on the Internet. It includes almanacs, encyclopedias, and dictionaries. You can also search the Internet Public Library by subject keyword, and know that the results you get have been evaluated for accuracy by librarians.
RefDesk calls itself, ‘The single best source for facts.” Although the site looks like a jumbled blue mess, it contains many useful links for research. Scroll down and find them toward the bottom of the page. You’ll find links to numerous encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, grammar guides, citation guides, etc. At the very bottom of the page, there is a reference guide to sources of business news.
Purdue University Online Writing Lab
Purdue University calls this site the OWL – the Online Writing Lab. They make it available to their students (and to everybody else) in order to provide quick online reference for grammar questions and for questions about citation styles. Use this site to answer your grammar, punctuation, and spelling questions.
Should I use wikipedia?
There are legitimate uses for wikipedia, but please don’t use wikipedia when writing your college papers. Jimmy Wales is the founder of wikipedia.
“Mr. Wales said that he gets about 10 e-mail messages a week from students who complain that Wikipedia has gotten them into academic hot water. “They say, ‘Please help me. I got an F on my paper because I cited Wikipedia’” and the information turned out to be wrong, he says. But he said he has no sympathy for their plight, noting that he thinks to himself: “For God sake, you’re in college; don’t cite the encyclopedia.”
Young, Jeffrey. (June 12, 2006). Wikipedia Founder Discourages Academic Use of His Creation. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved Aug. 21, 2008, from
Most of us use Google most of the time, so make the most of your Google searches….
contains a list of Google features and how to use them.
Criteria for Evaluating Websites:
Can you verify the information elsewhere? Is there contact information for the author? Is the information cited?
Who is the author and what are the author’s qualifications and credentials? Are the webmaster and the author different people?
What is the author’s purpose in presenting the information? Is a product or agenda being sold? Is there bias?
When was the information published and when was it last updated?
Cite your Sources:
The best way to cite a source is to use the actual citation manual that is required by your instructor (ex. MLA, APA, Chicago, Turabian, etc.). There are many web resources that give examples of citations, but they are just that – examples. The only way to be sure a citation is correct is to refer to the citation manual. Citation manuals are available for use in the L.A.C.E. and in the library, and the staff in both places is happy to help.
One web resource that features citation examples is maintained by the library at MSU – Bozeman. This page features examples taken directly from the citation manuals. http://www.lib.montana.edu/guides/styles.php
A popular web resource for creating citations is called Citation Machine. Citation Machine often generates citations correctly, but sometimes generates citations incorrectly. Referring to the actual citation manual is the best way to ensure correct citations.
More questions? Stop by the library. We are here to help!