Skip to Main Content

Information Literacy for Undergrads

Advice and Best Practices to Insure Obtaining and Using the Best Resources Available.

Your Research Is Important

Think Big: Your Research for Class is Adding to Our Intellectual Pool.  Keep Up the Good Work!

How to Pick a Topic

Here are some tips choosing a research topic:

1. Choose a topic that you are interested in! The research process is more relevant if you care about your topic.

2. Narrow your topic to something manageable.

3. If your topic is too broad, you will find too much information and not be able to focus. Background reading can help you choose and limit the scope of your topic.

4. Review the guidelines on topic selection outlined in your assignment.  Ask your professor or TA for suggestions.Refer to lecture notes and required texts to refresh your knowledge of the course and assignment.

5. Talk about research ideas with a friend.  S/he may be able to help focus your topic by discussing issues that didn't occur to you at first.

6. Think of the who, what, when, where and why questions:

  •         WHY did you choose the topic?  What interests you about it?  Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
  •         WHO are the information providers on this topic?  Who might publish information about it?  Who is affected by the topic?  Do you know of    organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?
  •         WHAT are the major questions for this topic?  Is there a debate about the topic?  Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
  •         WHERE is your topic important: at the local, national or international level?  Are there specific places affected by the topic?
  •         WHEN is/was your topic important?  Is it a current event or an historical issue?  Do you want to compare your topic by time periods?


Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

Information Literacy

Information literacy is being able to identify your information need.  It is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use, and communicate it in an ethical and legal way.

The skills and competencies that are needed to be information literate require an understanding of:

  • The information need
  • How to find information
  • How to evaluate information
  • How to find and use the information as appropriate
  • The ethics and responsibility of use
  • How to communicate or share your findings


Research Process

The research process is a cycle that can apply to research for any course through these steps:

  • Chose a topic and get a working knowledge of that topic. State the topic as a question.
  • Plan the search. Identify the main concepts or keywords in the question. Try to think of synonyms for keywords.
  • Find and access sources. Use RioCat to find books and eBooks and OhioLINK databases to find full-text articles. Also find resources on the Internet, but make sure that they are reliable.
  • Evaluate sources and determine which ones will be most appropriate for a college research paper. Do they answer the research question?
  • Cite the sources as prescribed by the instructor.

Critical Thinking & Information Literacy

Critical Thinking in terms of Information Literacy involves

  • Realizing the task
  • Exploring, formulating, questioning, and making connections
  • Searching and finding
  • Collecting and organizing
  • Analyzing, evaluating, interpreting
  • Applying understanding
  • Communicating
  • Reflecting

Want More on Information Literacy?

Fair Use

Fair Use: Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act allows for some provisions of using a reproduction of someone else's copyright-protected work if it is used for one of the following purposes: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research. However, fair use does not automatically qualify every educational use of a copyrighted work. A fair use evaluation is needed for each use or re-use of a work. The evaluation as to whether the reproduction is fair use must be made based upon four factors:

  • The purpose and character of use (commercial vs. nonprofit educational use)
  • The nature of the copyright-protected work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyright-protected work.

The legal defense for using the fair use provision would be in front of a federal court.

When providing copyrighted works under the provisions of fair use, notify users that the works may be subject to copyright protection.