Information Literacy: The Endless Search for Research

I must tell you something you don’t want to hear.  Wikipedia is not a gift from Satan. It has its purpose in the universe and should be given a certain level of respect.  Now that I’ve said that, let me explain.

As I noted in an earlier post, my master’s level course for the first part of the summer has been a doozy.  Information Access and Evaluation has proven to test my ideas about how to conduct research in ways I didn’t think were possible.  I’ve always known there was trusty old Google Search and Bing and the dreaded Wikipedia.  I even knew that on the collegiate level there are databases like Google Scholar,  ERIC and Proquest.  What I didn’t know was how to use them properly to get what I need and how my not being “in the know” explains why my students aren’t “in the know”.

Information Literacy  (IL) is what old farts like me used to call Library Science.  In the 21st Century, IL has taken on a new role as a gateway to the Internet and all the goodies (and baddies) it contains.  Learning how to find the information you need among the millions (billions?) of bits of data and information that exist on the Internet is a skill not easily learned (trust me, I just survived the lesson) and possibly not easily taught (I’ll be taking a stab at that this fall).  Check out this video:

What I learned about IL is this: how you access information on the internet determines what you find and how you evaluate what you’re found determines what you may or may not actually want.  I’ve learned that at my school, at least, we’ve been doing it all wrong.  No wonder I get so frustrated with my students as they immediately run to Google, end up at Wikipedia and then cut and past information that doesn’t have a thing to do with what I asked them to do.  I didn’t know how to do it correctly, why should they?

This bad habit of simply plugging in your keyword and going with whatever comes up, of course will become a problem later in the academic lives of our students.  As I learned, colleges all over the country (world?) are working hard to teach students how to properly research their assignments.  Students, according to college level media specialists, are frustrated, overwhelmed and completely confused about how to even start researching topics. Many colleges libraries have set up websites with the specific purpose of helping students get started, stay on track and not lose their minds while conducting research.  All because we’re not teaching it in K-12.

Well, let me not be so harsh.  Again, things are not as they should be in MY building, but I have really have no idea what’s going on in other building in my district.  After all, although I love the library, I try not to hang out with the librarian unless I have to.  I’d like to think I can track down any info I need without much assistance.  She doesn’t need to teach my kids how to do research, or does she?  If not her, should I? Add to all of this “go find it on the internet” stuff, is the added chore of making sure students are safe out there.  Digital citizenship is a big component of IL and should be part of the curriculum taught to students along with how to conduct proper research.

Let’s look at Wikipedia. shall we?  Although, its what is called a tertiary resource, it is a great place to start wikipedia-logoresearching a topic.  If you scroll to the bottom of the majority of articles on Wikipedia, you will find a reference listing.  USE IT!  Its where the info for the article came from and is usually full of information that is more accurate and reliable than what you find on Wikipedia.  All the hidden gems of research can be found by simply starting at what I now call, the “Cliff’s Notes” of the Internet”.

I’ll be conducting a 20 Time project at the beginning of the school year.  I think it would be the perfect opportunity to teach my students PROPER researching techniques, digital citizenship and how to create presentations people actually want to pay attention to.  I will be using my new found skills as an information literacy educator to do this.  Wish me luck.

Please find below several resources on Information Literacy (IL) for your use and edification.  Enjoy the rest of your summer vacation northern hemisphere teachers…  Get ‘er done southern hemisphere educators!


What tools to you use to conduct personal or professional research?  Do you students know how to properly conduct research? Do you know how to evaluate the information you have accessed?

Information Literacy Info and Resources

Information Literacy 2.0

Information Literacy: A Neglected Core Competency

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

Understanding Information Literacy: A Primer

The C.A.R.S. Checklist for Evaluating Internet Sources

Hall Davidson’s Copyright and Fair Use Guide for Teachers