Information problem-solving

Successful information problem-solving encompasses six stages with two sub-stages under each:

1. Task Definition
1.1 Define the information problem
1.2 Identify information needed in order to complete the task (to solve the information problem)

2. Information Seeking Strategies
2.1 Determine the range of possible sources (brainstorm)
2.2 Evaluate the different possible sources to determine priorities (select the best sources)

3. Location and Access
3.1 Locate sources (intellectually and physically)
3.2 Find information within sources

4. Use of Information
4.1 Engage (e.g., read, hear, view, touch) the information in a source
4.2 Extract relevant information from a source

5. Synthesis
5.1 Organize information from multiple sources
5.2 Present the information

6. Evaluation
6.1 Judge the product (effectiveness)
6.2 Judge the information problem-solving process (efficiency)

This method is used by Big6™ to teach information literacy in schools.

Applied to Information Literacy: [Virtual Library Source]

1. Defining your problem and asking the good questions

  • What is my thesis or problem?

  • What information do I need?

  • What do I already know?

  • What more do I need to find out?

Remember: Try to make the most out of any research problem. The better your question, the more you will learn. For more information about defining a problem and asking good questions, read and Dr. Jamie McKenzie’s

2. Information seeking strategies?

  • Where can I find the information I need? Which are the best possible sources? Which databases are the best choices?
  • Which types of sources will best help me solve my information problem? Which sources do I already have?
  • Do I need help to find the resources or to make sure I haven’t overlooked any critical sources?

Follow these links more information on searching and appropriate internet search tools and our catalog and licensed databases.

3. Selecting and evaluating your resources

  • How can I search these sources effectively?
  • After reading, can I identify better keywords or subject headings to refine my electronic search?
  • Do the resources I found really answer my questions or offer evidence to support my thesis?
  • Have I carefully examined my selected sources for significant details and concepts?
  • Have I examined my sources for currency, relevance, accuracy, credibility, appropriateness and and bias?
  • Can I defend all of the resources I am considering for inclusion in my works consulted page?
  • Does the scope, depth and quality of my research meet my teacher’s and my own expectations?
  • How will I credit my sources?

(For more information about citing sources check out our online MLA stylesheet. For more information on evaluating your sources, take a look at Evaluating Sources of Information and How to Critically Analyze Information Sources)

4. Organizing and restructuring information

  • How much of the information I collected is truly relevant?
  • Do I see any patterns emerging in the information I collected?
  • How can I organize this information so that it makes sense to myself and others? Do I have a strategy for notetaking?
  • Can I construct a visual tool or written outline to help me structure my work?
  • Have I solved my information problem and answered the related questions?
  • Do I have enough information?

(Check out the Graphic Organizer Index, NCREL’s Graphic Organizers, and SCORE’s Graphic Organizers for ideas on organizing the information you collect.)

5. Communicating the results of your research

  • Who is my audience?
  • How can I most effectively share this information with this audience?
  • Which would be the best format for communicating the results of my information? PowerPoint? video? essay? debate? speech? traditional paper?
  • What do I need to do this presentation? Equipment? Software?
  • Have I included everything I want to share?
  • Have I proofread, edited and truly finished my project?

(Purdue’s Online Writing Lab has a variety of resources that will help you create a finished product. Here’s a list of sites that will help improve your presentation skills.)

6. Evaluating your work

The product:

  • Am I proud of the product? Was it effective?
  • Did I meet the guidelines or follow the rubric for the project?
  • Am I sure I did not plagiarize from any of my sources?
  • Is the best work I could have done?

The process:

  • Did I explore the full scope of available resources and select the best?
  • Did I approach the research process energetically?
  • Did I search electronic resources (the Web and licensed databases) using effective, efficient, strategic search strategies?

(Check the research rubric before submitting your final product.)

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