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MICDS McCulloch Library: Getting Started with My Research Project

First Things First

What is information literacy?
Information Literacy is the ability to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."  -American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, 1989
Why do I need to know it?
Information Literacy is vital to becoming a life long learner who enjoys exploring new fields of study and pursues recreational interests. Being informationally literate means you are a good information seeker and are comfortable knowing where to find reliable and accurate resources.  An informationally literate person knows libraries are a good place to find accurate information.  Librarians can help you sort the treasure from the trash.  Librarians are always eager to help you find what you need. 

Follow these steps...

1. Read the assignment sheet and RUBRIC thoroughly, highlighting important requirements.  Don’t lose points because you have not followed the directions.  Pay particular attention to what types of information sources are required. If you have questions, discuss the assignment with your classmates and teacher.  


2.  PRESEARCH --  Consider what information you will need based on what questions you are trying to answer.  Decide where you will look to find the information.  Sometimes your teacher will specify sources you must use.  Sometimes you'll decide on your own based on your topic.  It's best to start with broad-brush tools such as overview articles.  Encyclopedias, Wikipedia, or subject dictionaries all have overview articles as do some of the databases. 


3.  Narrow and focus your topic so it is "just right".  You don't want your topic so broad that it is too big for you to handle or so narrow that you will struggle to find any information related to it. 

4.  Develop a list of keywords from your initial searches.  Use them as search terms to dig in to some weightier sources; research databases, reference materials, primary sources, and the project page created by the librarian for your assignment.


5. Brainstorm to develop your own open-ended Fat Research Question which will help drive your research.  Then, write lots of fact-based Skinny Questions to help focus your research and lead you to discovering the answer to your Fat Question. 


6.  Use NoodleTools to construct an outline from the Skinny Questions you have written and a Works Cited from the information you have collected.  Use the MLA note card system to organize your research on NoodleTools.  


7.  RESEARCH -- As you gather information, evaluate your sources for relevance, authenticity, accuracy, timeliness, and bias.  Discard information from unreliable or inaccurate sources.  Do not rely on material from wikis. (Wikis can be changed by anyone).

8.  Analyze your material to determine whether you are missing any information that will be necessary for a complete project, and to determine if you need additional sources.  Consider using expert interviews. Click here for more information on search engines.


9.  THE PRODUCT -- Use your outline and note cards to draft your paper or complete your presentation, taking care to attribute copyright and avoid plagiarism. 


10. ASSESS -- Reflect on your efforts and the quality of the final product. Did you meet your expectations?  What would you change in the process or product next time you conduct a research project?