Better Research- Part I: Defining needs

This post marks the first of a three part segment on improving student research. It is easy and awfully tempting to hand students a laptop and tell them to use their favorite search engine to find information on whatever topic. They are masters at navigating the internet, right? Wrong. Research shows that though young people appear to cruise Google with ease,

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Just last week, as a student in an Advanced Placement course sat staring at his Google screen, he expressed some frustration at not being able to find good information on “his topic.”

“Okay,” I asked him. “What is your topic?”
“I’m not really sure yet” he responded.

Not only was he unsure of the topic of his research paper, it was evident that he didn’t have an articulated purpose for the mysterious information that he was looking for. This is common, and why the first part of 3 research lessons caters to “Defining Information Needs.” Though this step of the research process is tempting to skip because it is so easy to just jump in and begin searching, students end up with much better products when a little time is taken to first articulate needs.

The Big 6 model defines two steps related to this process:
1. Task Definition
1.1 Define the information problem
1.2 Identify information needed

2. Information Seeking Strategies
2.1 Determine all possible sources
2.2 Select best sources

Below is a possible lesson plan to help students to define their information needs. Schedule some time in the library at the beginning of your next research project and let me know when I can work with your students!

NEXT POST AND LESSON PLAN WILL TEACH STUDENTS ABOUT AUTHORITATIVE TRADITIONAL AND HIGHER TECH INFORMATION SOURCES– I bet you can’t wait!!

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