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Mount Seminar

Becoming Information Literate

Here are some tips for evaluating information as you research your papers.

Scholarly vs. Popular?

This short video explains why scholarly sources are preferable to popular publications for most college-level research and writing, and it will help you learn how to differentiate between the two.

Scholarly vs. popular publications from Information Literacy by Elsa Loftis

Search Strategies

How can you make searching for information less frustrating?

Know your topic

  • Ask questions to yourself about the topic you are searching. This can help you understand if you are searching for the right information.
    • For example...You want to write a paper on how great the television show Family Guy is. THINK ABOUT what questions you are trying to answer... How does Family Guy tackle the issue of race? How can Family Guy explore the issue of family dynamics? By understanding what questions you are trying to answer, it will help you focus your thoughts and how you go about looking for information.

    Use your words

    • Keywords that is. The catalog and databases are not like Ask.com. You can't ask those systems a question. They don't like it. What do you need to do? Pick out the most important words or ideas about what you are trying to find.
      • For example...Your topic: Family Guy treats the issue of ethnicity and social issues effectively. What are the MOST IMPORTANT IDEAS in this sentence? Family Guy, ethnicity and social issues. These are the terms you should use to begin your search.

      Think outside the box

      • Sometimes just one set of keywords is not enough. You may search multiple places and not get any results. Try thinking of a different way to say something.
        • For example... America = United States; Teenager = Teen, Adolescent; Body image = Self image

        Working on Your Topic

        Picking a topic can be difficult. To make picking and writing on a topic a little easier, try to avoid these common mistakes:

        Thinking there are 100+ articles/books on your topic.
        Not every topic is written about at length, especially when they are CURRENT topics.
        TIP: Try to hunt around to see how your topic is treated. Browse general reference resources to give yourself ideas. Try subject encyclopedias,
        newspapers, magazines, etc. to get the ideas flowing.
        Picking a topic that is too broad or too narrow.
        You need to make sure your topic is manageable. Too broad will mean you will be overwhelmed by information. Too narrow will mean you might not find enough information to back up your thoughts.
        TIP: If you feel you are overwhelmed or not finding enough information, you may need to refine your search. How? Think about a broader/narrower time span, a larger/smaller place, broad/specific group of people, general/specific event.
        Not being flexible with your research.
        You have an idea and will stick to it no matter what, which may lead to frustrating research.
        TIP: Its okay to adjust your topic while you research. However, try to have a basic idea of what you want to do when you begin.
        Not giving yourself enough time.
        Be careful about time! Finding materials takes time. Putting together your thoughts takes time.
        TIP: Make sure you allow enough time for your research. This should lessen stress and make the process a lot more enjoyable.
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