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H A N D L I N G I N F O R M AT I O N OV E R L OA D I N T H E D I G I TA L AG E
Research and the Learner Profile Good researchers are:
Inquirers: Showing natural curiosity and take the initiative to learn. Knowledgable: About available resources and organizing information. Thinkers: Asking critical questions and evaluating sources. Communicators: Sharing their findings with a larger community. Principled: Using others’ material ethically. Reflective: Consistently evaluating their information AND their process, in order to further develop ideas and understanding.
So what is this information literacy stuff, anyway?
The Research Paper
Believe it or not, a school literacy and the research research project is a lot like life. process are all about! Every day, we’re faced Today’s information with choices that literate student require consults as many informed Knowing where to different, reliable decision find infor mation sources as s/he making. can ﬁnd, asks Should I (and what to do questions, takes buy a new with it once you’ve notes, then iPhone? Is found it) is half the develops an another opinion based on phone battle... solid information. better? Is this Information literacy new computer isn’t just knowing how to game really worth set up a Facebook page. $100? Which college should I go to? How can I convince my It is knowing how to ﬁnd, parents to give me my own car? evaluate and use information Information helps us to analyze from many sources: books, the choices, draw conclusions, newspapers, magazines, and make decisions. In the old days, ﬁnding the information was databases, videos, or the web. It is a set of skills that you develop pretty easy:You’d go to the over time, a way of thinking library, check which books and about problem-solving that will magazines were available.You work whether you want to might ask your parents, or research the latest video game someone else who had reliable or the Middle Ages. knowledge, but that’s about it. Today is a whole new world.You have not only books and magazines, but also the WWW, databases, archives The web consists of over eleven billion web pages—so you‘ll have to search through a lot of garbage to ﬁnd the information you need. That’s what information According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 70% of 21st Century jobs will require workers to ﬁnd information, evaluae its worth and use it creatively. Thus, students must do more than learn “library skills.” They must manage information.
THE RESEARCH PROCESS
Like any multi-dimensional task, good research is a circular process. Following this process will increase the likelihood of not only ﬁnding useful, relevant information, but of using it in meaningful ways. What is this process? PRE-SEARCH Deﬁne your task/topic Determine your information needs Develop your research question Determine your information sources FIND INFORMATION Organize material Evaluate sources/information Analyze Extract relevant ideas Focus topic/research question (if needed) PUT IT ALL TOGETHER Connect ideas Think through dissenting information Order the ideas logically Evaluate: Do I need more info?
CREATE/EVALUATE Complete your task Judge the ﬁnal product (is it effective)? Evaluate process:
What worked? What didn’t work? What would you do differently? Let’s explore each of these stages. PRE-SEARCH Let’s say your teacher gives you an assignment. Your ﬁrst step is to decide what you need to do in order to complete the task. Ask yourself these questions: ➡ What is my ﬁnal product? An essay? A poster? An oral presentation? A video? ➡ Does it have a required size, length, or time limit? ➡ What is the topic? Do I need to focus it? Of course, if you’re working on your MYP personal project, you may not have an answer to any of these questions yet. Other assignments may answer none, some or all. In any case, here’s what you need to think about. FOCUS YOUR TOPIC Sometimes the teacher will give you a topic, sometimes you’ll come up with your own. Most of the time, you will still need to decide how to focus or narrow your topic and make it your own.You need to have a broad enough topic that you have something to talk or write about, but narrow enough that you can discuss it thoroughly in the time/space allotment.
FOCUSING YOUR TOPIC This is an important point in your research process. A well deﬁned topic guides everything else you do, from framing your research question to ﬁnding information to writing your thesis.
General Topic: European Politics Narrower: Russia and World War I More Narrow: Russian politics and WW I Focused: Russian involvement in WWI and its effect on the revolution. NOTE: This is still not a research question.; it is just your TOPIC.
RESEARCH QUESTION The research question lies at the heart of any extensive research project. If you don’t know much about your topic, you may actually need to spend a few days (or weeks!) research learning enough to be able to frame a good question. The question guides everything you do, from ﬁnding information to writing your thesis statement, so it’s important to spend the time it takes to write a good one. The research question is not the same as your topic. For example, your topic might be healthy eating. The research question is what you want ﬁnd out about that topic. It asks for analysis, and usually has more than one answer. A good research question also asks you to do more than just list your answers. It forces you to take a stand, develop an argument and defend your position. Thus, “What makes a healthy meal?” is NOT a good research question. It may require analysis to determine what it includes and you may even argue over that, but in the end, all you have to do is list ideas. A better question would be, “If they’re given healthy options, do teens make good eating choices?” See the difference? This is going to take some analysis, and you’ll have to decide which side you’ll take, then prove it! You can’t just list.
A GOOD RESEARCH QUESTION IS:
ANALYTICAL: Answering it requires you to prove a point and provide evidence, not just answer yes or no. ARGUABLE: There is more than one side to the issue.You could argue for against, and still have good points to make. FOCUSED: The question is broad enough to give you plenty to discuss, but narrow enough to allow you to do a thorough job. RESEARCHABLE: You can ﬁnd enough good, authoritative material to material to be able to do a good job on your ﬁnal product.
SUPPORTING QUESTIONS Of course, your research question is not the only question you’ll be asking! You will need to develop support questions to develop your understanding. These are the questions that help you answer the research question.
FRAMING A RESEARCH QUESTION If focusing your topic is important, writing a good research question is essential to your entire research process, so be willing to spend a considerable amount of time on this part. Writing a good research question is HARD! You will probably write several before you (or your adviser) is happy!
TOPIC 1: NUTRITION Weak: What makes a nutritious meal? Better: Which fast food restaurant serves the healthiest options? TOPIC 2: FITNESS Weak: How can I improve my ﬁtness level? Better: Which works best to improve strength levels: machines or free weights?
TELLING QUESTIONS These questions move past the broad range of your research question to zero in on important information. These look for speciﬁc answers. “What kind of machines will I use?” “How many reps at which weight?” “Which menu items contain over 25% fat?” ANALYTICAL QUESTIONS Whatever you’re reading, it’s important to ask “How?” and “Why?” Good analytical questions look for patterns, connections, contrasts or dilemmas. They consider the implications of your ﬁndings and develop them. “If students aren’t choosing available healthy foods, is it because of taste or cost? “How does the cooking process improve nutritional value?” Is grilling better than frying?” (Be careful not to play guessing games with this kind of questioning. Ground your research in speciﬁc details!) ELABORATING QUESTIONS These questions look at the information and make sense of it. Typical questions might be “What does the author mean by...?” Or “What does this statement imply?” “What effect would this have on the average person?” More importantly, you should always ask: “How does this connect with other information I’ve found?” “What information is the author NOT discussing?” Of course, like the research process itself, question generating is cyclical. You’ll write questions to start the research process, but others will arise as you research, which in turn prompt yet more questions. Embrace the process! PLAN YOUR SEARCH
“Infor mation literacy is the process of turning infor mation into meaning, understanding and new ideas.”
Terry Crane, VP of AOL
USING THE PLANNER
KEYWORDS: Use the nouns and verbs in your research question to start a list of keywords. From our fast food example, you would choose “fast food” “restaurants” “healthy options” for example. Then, for each of those, generate a list of similar or alternative words. For example, for “healthy options” you might list “nutritious” “low fat” “high ﬁber,” etc. As you research, you can add other words to your list. Using a variety of search terms helps you ﬁnd a wider selection of sources. SOURCES: Think of all the places you can ﬁnd high-quality information: books, databases, websites, interviews, etc. Remember, too, that research is social now, and everyone curates! Check resourcesharing sites such as Scoop.It, Delicious, Twitter, Slideshare, Sribd and other.
Just remember, that on these sites, you need Nothing is more frustrating than typing a search to be very aware of the source of the information, and to verify their credibility. into Google and staring at the resulting 3,650, 483 results! That’s why PLANNING your search before you being will make your life a lot easier.
CREATE/EVALUATE KEEP A SOURCE LIST! Document your resources AS YOU GO! Books, websites, articles, interviews--log them all into NoodleTools so you’re not struggling later to ﬁgure out where you found your information! When you think you’re ﬁnished, it’s time to put all that information to use. Formalize the sorting you did in the last step by organizing the information. organize it.There are many ways to do this, whether it’s graphically, through a mind- map, or more formally, through an outline. You’ll also need to think about the best structure for presenting the information: Movie? Book? Pamphlet? Dance? This is the “project” part of Personal Project. Whatever you decide, ensure you have solid, research-based reasons for choosing that! Why is it the BEST option for showing your research ﬁndings? Once you have ﬁnished your project, Quite frankly,YOU should be the ﬁrst person to evaluate your work, not your mom and not your teacher, though they can be helpful! Ask yourself these questions as you evaluate what you’ve created. Is my task ﬁnished? Did I complete the assignment? Is everything in the proper order? Did I include every element? Did I do my best? Good writing? Thesis Statement? (if needed) Logical order? Cited sources appropriately? Neat? Correct spelling?
EVALUATE YOUR FINDINGS.
Forgive the acronym, but everything you read should pass the CRAAP test! How recent is the information? Has it been updated or revised? Will older resources work as well, or do you need recent information?
Relevance: Does the information ﬁt your topic and research question? Who is the audience? Is it at an appropriate level (not too easy or advanced). Is it appropriate to cite in your paper?
publisher? What are his/her credentials? Afﬁliations? Is this person qualiﬁed to write about the topic? Can you ﬁnd contact information? Is the information supported by evidence? Is this a peerreviewed source? Can you verify the information elsewhere? It is unbiased? Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
Authority: Who is the author or
created? Is it informational? Persuasive? Entertaining? Does the author make his/ her purpose clear? It the information fact, opinion or propaganda? Are there any biases, whether political, cultrual, religious or personal? Try to collect both primary and secondary sources. Teachers (and the IBO) are impressed when you use and discuss intelligently sources directly related to your topic (primary)
Purpose: Why was this source
It may sound goofy, but once you’re ﬁnished, take time to reﬂect about the entire process. What worked very well for you? What wasn’t all that helpful? How would you do things differently next time? This is called “metacognition,” which means thinking about how you think and how you learn. The more you understand about your own processes, the easier it will be next time!
Research and the Personal Project
Let’s take a hypothetical project. Omar wants to create a video for his peers about skateboarding safety, linking it to the Health and Social Education AOI. He spends a lot of time researching skateboarding hazards and good safety practices and protective devices. Omar thinks he is ready to begin, and is surprised when his supervisor tells him he’s nowhere close to ready. Why isn’t he ready? Remember, the focus of your project is not the project itself, but the process you go through in researching that project, and the reasoning behind the decisions you make. So, for example, aside from the questions about skateboarding and safety, here are a few of the questions Omar should have been asking and researching. Education: If my goal is to educate my peers, what are the best ways to do that? Workshops? Brochures? Videos? How do teens learn best? What factors affect my decision? What tools or skills can I draw on to help? How will I reach my audience? How will I measure what they learned? How will I know if I was successful or not? Video Production What makes an effective educational video? What format should I use? What do I need to do to get ready to shoot a video? What are the basics of video production? Moreover, for each source of information you need to ask yourself the questions above in the CRAAP test, because in your ﬁnal assessment, you’ll need to 1) explain why these were good sources for you and 2) how the information you learned from them affected your project (in other words, how did you APPLY the information?) Thus, throughout your research, your should link to or document your resources in your blog AND write a short explanation of why it’s a good source why it’s relevant to your research.
Works Consulted: Mackenzie, Jamie. “The Questioning Toolkit.” From Now On:The Educational Technology Journal.Vol 7. No 3, 1997. Web. 28 Sept 2010. Meriam Library, Chico State University. Applying the CRAAP Test. Chico: Meriam Library, Chico State University, 2010. Web. 29 Sept 2010.
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