Step 2: Gather
Students: Your goal is to locate, retrieve, read, evaluate, and record information related to your research question or hypothesis.
Teachers: Your goal as a teacher and information literacy coach is to guide the students to resources that answer their research question or test their hypothesis, ensuring, through active dialog, that students engage and extract meaning from what they read, listen to, or view.
“The next best thing to knowing something is knowing where to find it.”
QUICKLINKS TO RESOURCES
About this step
The heart of the gathering process is the reading, viewing, listening—and learning from the sources gathered. But first, students must find quality information about their topic. It's a complex process that involves not only print and digital search and retrieval skills, but a high level of literacy. They need to understand the power of keywords to pull information from vast indexes. They need to understand scholarship and how information is accepted as fact and theory, so they can evaluate whether a resource is valid. Finally, students need to be able to effectively record notes and citations, so that they can discover ideas and remember where they found them.
With digital tools students will find a lot of data very quickly. Not too long ago, finding information on a topic might have been a challenge, but what the students did find in their school or public library represented information based on scholarship and editorial fact-checking. Students need to learn the difference between scholarly sources, written by experts who follow scientific methods, and popular works.
Wikipedia: The expertise of the masses
With the advent of collaborative information websites, your students will be presented with many information resources that follow no scholarly process or the publishing traditions of print media. Fact checking is conducted by anyone who logs on. The most familiar example of this is Wikipedia, the encyclopedia generated and corrected by the masses. Wikipedia results will come up in nearly every common search your students conduct. Your students need to understand that it is not an information source reviewed and approved by scholars like the Encyclopedia Britannica or Encarta. Though it is not scholarship, it can be useful. Wikipedia often provides the only information available on obscure or timely topics.
When the printed word ruled the world, it was easy to tell the difference between the National Enquirer and Britannica. It was simple to glance at a bibliography and judge the source. Today's challenge is finding useful and valid sources in the ocean (or swamp) of available information. Your students should be able to create citations that other researchers can follow, but also explain why they chose a particular resource.
New tools for information processing
As digital natives, many of your students will adapt to new technologies very quickly. They will find creative ways to apply the tools they use everyday. Some though, may be distracted by technology while attempting to find information and create meaning. Therefore, these guidelines include both traditional pen and paper and innovative digital tools.
About this step
In order to accomplish this, you will:
- Search for information using internet search engines, and library resources like book catalogs and article databases.
- Scan and read and make choices about what to print, save, or borrow from the library.
- Evaluate your sources based on a careful consideration of the information.
- Summarize the viewpoints and facts that you find and record exactly where you find the information so you can cite it later.
As you read, you will "interview" your sources.
- Consider what the author is saying, when the source was written, and how the ideas are supported with facts and evidence.
- With each sentence you read, consider the point being made. Is it logical? Is it valid? Does it change what you believe about the subject?
- As soon as you can form a statement of what you believe to be true, jot down this statement—or thesis or revised hypothesis—your original position may change as you learn more about the topic.
- You are on a fact-finding mission, but you will not search primarily for facts.
- You will look for trends and patterns supported by facts.
- In order to persuade your audience, one of whom will be your esteemed professor, you must gather evidence from reliable sources.
When do you have enough?
- When you can make a valid statement supported with evidence–when you can persuade your audience.
- When you have at least three good reasons that your thesis is true.
- When you have several facts or experts to support your reasons.
Soon, you will be the consummate authority on your topic! Go get em!
Where will you look for information?
The sources you need will depend on your topic. It is important to view a variety of sources to gain a broad understanding of your topic.
In these locations:
- EZRA (Thomas Library's Catalog): to find resources at Wittenberg University (including books, journals, ebooks, DVD or VHS videos, online videos)
- Article databases: to find articles from magazines, newspapers and academic journals
- OhioLINK Catalog: to find resources you can borrow from other libraries in Ohio
- Internet web pages (including blog posts, wikis, etc)
- Scholarly articles
- Magazine and newspaper articles
- Sound recordings, including podcasts
- Video in DVDs and streaming formats on the web
- Historical documents and artifacts
How will you introduce your student to information resources?
What search tools will you use to find the best information to answer your question?
- Internet search engines
- Article databases
- Library catalogs
Don't forget to look for people who are experts or eye witnesses! Conduct interviews in person, on the phone, through the mail or email.
- Always look for an "advanced" option. The advanced options help you focus your search to get more relevant results!
- Type fewer words in the search box! The more words you type, the less relevant your results will be.
- Pick only essential words to use as search terms - searching is really just matching words.
- Books are great places to begin research - they outline your topic for you in the Table of Contents and allow you to search for concepts in the Index.
- Librarians use the internet too, and because they are information experts their advice can yield higher-quality results - even in web searches.
- Library catalogs can also search by keywords, author, title, subject or date. Check for a feature that allows you to browse. A browse feature allows your to search in alphabetical order for books and authors.
- When you find an article that is not available in full-text, ask a librarian if the item can be delivered to you through interlibrary loan.
What tools will you require your students to use in their information search?
Which keywords will you use?
Language is power! Choose your search terms carefully!
Before you search, brainstorm and create a list of keywords. Think of broad general terms and narrow specific terms. Broad terms may lead you to books or Internet pages where you can use indexes or hyperlinks to find specific subjects. Specific terms may lead you immediately to a source focused on your topic, but may not find sources that use slightly different words or spellings. Choosing the best keywords is a process that becomes easier with experience.
- Librarians may be able to help you quickly identify relevant key terms.
- If at first you do not succeed, try again with related words before you change search engines or databases (instead of teen, try youth or adolescent).
- Use broader terms searching library catalogs and databases.
- Search for specific phrases or titles by enclosing the words in quotation marks: "To be or not to be".
How will you guide your students to select appropriate keywords?
How will you identify the best sources to use?
You must learn to evaluate your sources. As you read an information source, ask yourself:
|WHO?||Who wrote this source (or site)? What are their qualifications? Are they an expert on the topic?|
|WHAT?||What is the purpose of the source? Is it intended to entertain, inform or sell? Is the information fact or opinion? Is the information biased?|
|WHERE?||Where does the information in the source come from? Is it documented? How do I know if it is true?|
|WHEN?||When was the information published? Is it current?|
|WHY?||Why should I use this source? Is it the best source of information for my purpose or topic?|
AND, Some technical tricks
How will you advise your students on evaluation of resources?
How will you record what you find?
You will need to develop a system to record and organize the information you find. Good old-fashioned note cards are still an excellent tool for recording your information.
Or, you can use one of the following:
- Notebook paper
- Citation Management program (Zotero, EndNote or Mendeley)
- Word processor (Microsoft Word™ or Apple Pages™)
- Other software (PowerPoint™ or Keynote™)
- A short summary of the main idea and the most important fact/s that support the idea.
- Create a heading—a category that you think this information might fit into—for each point that you record. These categories are very useful in the next step.
- Do not record every word in the source. Learn to paraphrase the source. (3 x 5 cards are useful here because they force you to take brief notes.)
How will you instruct your students in note-taking?
How will you give credit to your sources?
Citation is the formal term for the act of crediting your sources.
Remember to record the necessary information for creating your Bibliography or Works Cited List. Write exactly where you found the information (including author, title, publisher, page numbers, specific URLs, etc.). You must provide enough information so that another researcher can locate exactly the same document. This information will be used in your final Bibliography or Works Cited page, so make careful notes.
Check with your professor to determine which format you should use for your citations. The most common and the subject areas in which they are used are:
- APA Publication Manual : Social studies
- Chicago Manual of Style : Journalism
- MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers : English
- A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate Turabian: Historians, History Day projects
You can use note cards to record your bibliographic information. For help, you can talk to a Writing Consultant at the Wittenberg Writing Center.
Or, use one of the following free tools, but do be careful. The citations these tools create are only as accurate as the data given to them. If there is a typo or if you do not capitalize something that should be capitalized, these tools may not fix it! Always double-check with your handbook: