Guiding Questions: The Information Literacy Script Question icon


An essential ingredient in building information literacy is the dialog between teacher and student. These questions may guide you in engaging students in thoughtful reflection. As students hear these phrases repeated, the script becomes an internal dialog that the information literate student carries for a lifetime of information searching. Consider introducing these questions to all the teachers/mentors who are working students in a research process.

Step 1: Question

  • Do you understand the requirements of the assignment?
  • Do you know who your final audience will be?
  • Do you know when the product is due?
  • What do you need or want to learn?
  • What are you interested in? Try and tie an interest of yours to the topic/question at hand.
    Follow up with specific questions. For example, your student is interested in football. Do you think that taxpayers should pay for a new stadium? Do you think others would agree with you? What do you think of player X's behavior off the field?
  • What do you know about the topic? If the answer is nothing or very little, read, view, listen to a reliable source for general information about the topic.
  • What do you think/feel about the topic?
  • Are there general questions that you need to answer before deciding to pursue this topic?
  • Where did you learn about the topic? Was the source reliable? Did you search the source for keywords that you can use as you continue your search?

As the student begins to formulate a question…

  • Is the question too broad to focus you search?
  • Is the question too narrow to find enough information?
  • Can you answer that question within the time frame of this project with the resources available?
  • What's your angle? Does your question require an informed opinion? Does you question require you to make a judgment or a recommendation?

Step 2: Gather

Beginning the search…

  • What important ideas, concepts, and facts do you need to find in order to answer your question? Where can you find this information? (Yes, an Internet search engine is a good place to look, but can you think of any others?)
  • Do you know how to use the resources you have selected? Who can you ask for assistance?
  • What keywords will you use to retrieve this information? List both narrow terms (for use in Internet search engines) and broader terms (also useful for Internet searches, but necessary for library catalogs or some databases.)
  • Did you search in library catalogs, general and specialized databases (list those that would be appropriate to the student's topic) and Internet search engines? Did you try Clusty or Ask to locate related topics?
  • Are there primary sources available on this topic? (primary research or first-hand accounts)
  • Are there experts you can interview, in person or online?

Scanning search results…

  • Do the search results describe pages that will answer you question?
  • Can you tell something about the quality of the site from its description and domain name? Is it a university site (.edu) organization (.org) or a commercial site? (.com)

After opening a web site and before printing or saving…

  • Did you scan the information, including titles, sub-headings and captions? Does the information answer your question?
  • Can you verify that the information presented is accurate?
  • Does the author/creator state the source of the information presented?
  • Whose opinion does the information represent? One person, an edited publication, a respected organization, the scientific community?
  • Did you "print preview" before you print? How many print pages are there? Did you look on the web page for an option to reformat the page for printing? Did you look for an option to email the page or article?
  • If you print does not come out on the printer, check with the lab supervisor before you print again. The printer is probably stuck. When the printer comes back on line all the print requests will gush from the printer, one for every time you clicked print. So "Don't print twice, it's alright" (A little Dylan allusion. INSERT SMILEY HERE)

While reading…

  • Does this information answer your question?
  • What are the main idea, supporting points and important details of the source? Quick, write that down in your notes! Try not to look at the source as you summarize. Don't forget to note where you find it so that you and others can find it again.
  • Does this information change what you know about the subject?
  • Did you "interview" the article or information, mentally asking: what do I know about this subject? How does what I am reading change what I know? Why should I believe this?
  • Can you find this information in more than one source, especially if it's controversial?
  • Did you find resources to answer your question?
  • No? Then, did you experiment with a variety of keywords, narrow and broad, in a variety of resources?
  • What are you learning?
    • Nothing? Did you Read? View? Listen? Engage?
  • If you can't find anything, did you revise your question?
    • Still nothing on your topic? Not even a page on the whole Internet?
  • Let's discuss this with our librarian…
  • Perhaps you have asked an original question that no one has thought of before—your PhD topic awaits! Many great scholars and inventors begin the pursuit of their research interests in their teens. Perhaps you will build the better mousetrap, program the crash-less operating system or find solutions for global warming! For requirements of this assignment however, can you revise your quest to something that can be accomplished in the time allowed?

Step 3: Conclude

  • What did you learn? Can you clearly state the answer in one sentence?
  • Why do you believe that it's true? Can you list at least three reasons?
  • Do you have recognized facts and expert opinion to support each reason?
Schedule | Question | Gather | Conclude | Communicate: Essay - Electronic Slides - Video | Evaluate | Start Over | Printer iconPrinter-friendly view

The Research Project Calculator is a project funded jointly by MINITEX and MnLINK to develop Cool Tools for Minnesota secondary school students and their teachers. It is based on the original Assignment Calculator from the University of Minnesota Libraries.

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