The Internet is a swelling ocean of information. Navigating through the steady flow of that information ocean can be hazardous. This is certainly true of a student who is not information fluent. The driving question is what are some smart online research strategies? Luckily this falls within the realm of the 21st Century Fluencies, namely Information Fluency. This involves the 5As process:
- asking the right questions
- acquiring the knowledge
- analyzing the content for relevancy and credibility
- applying the knowledge to our use
- assessing the effectiveness of our message
Here are some Information Fluency-oriented online research strategies for your students. They can use them when navigating the Internet for information and data. They’re terrific knowledge-building approaches for any project they’re tackling in school and beyond.
This involves compiling a list of critical questions about what knowledge or data is being sought. The key here is to ask good questions, because that’s how you get good answers.
Recommended Strategy: Know what it is you are researching. Do you fully understand the driving question? If you are unclear about your destination, you might end up wasting an enormous amount of time. You could be surfing the Web and getting nowhere. Worse, you could go down the wrong alley.
If you are given a driving question, or you formulate one yourself, ask it in different ways. Rephrase it from different points of view. Often an Internet search of your question word-for-word is not going to get you the results you want. Fully understand your question and reword it in such a way that will be found easily on the Internet.
Accessing information is no longer as easy as going to a card catalog and getting a book or other paper-based resource. This stage involves accessing and collecting informational materials from the most appropriate digital and non-digital sources.
Recommended Strategy: Use a bookmarking tool like Digg or Delicious which also allows you to highlight web text for further reading. You could also copy and paste URLs into a Google Docs template in a section reserved specifically for online sources. You can use the Solution Fluency Blog Template we created from a Hubspot template for optimizing blog posts.
At this stage, you don’t have to really read the articles in depth yet. Just take a quick cursory glance for relevancy, and gather them into a list for later. Don’t forget a brief note on the gist of the article, who wrote it, etc.
With all the raw data collected, the next step is to navigate through the information to authenticate, organize, and arrange it all. This stage also involves ascertaining whether information is true or not, and distinguishing the good from the bad.
Recommended Strategy: Begin with this blog article on analyzing websites for reliability. Then really examine your resources up close. Listen and watch the videos; don’t just skim them. Take time to internalize what the article is trying to say, who wrote it, and why. Ask yourself if you disagree or agree. Begin to get a sense of how this fits into your scheme. This might be the area of Information Fluency that we spend most of our time in.
Once data is collected and verified, and a solution is created, the knowledge must then be practically applied within the context of the original purpose for the information quest.
Recommended Strategy: Close all sources so you don’t see them. Don’t copy and paste. Write from your own words. Get as much down as you possibly can, saying what you need to say. Then go back and reread your sources. Where did your thoughts come from? Cite them as needed.
The final stage is about thoroughly and critically revisiting both the product and the process. This involves open and lively discussions about how the problem-solving journey could have been made more efficient, and how the solution created could be applied to challenges of a similar nature.
Recommended Strategy: Don’t proofread yourself. Collaborate—get a trusted colleague or friend to read it. Ask them to be brutally honest. Even give them “red pen” freedom to comment away on your finished product. Tell them to rip it apart. Don’t be afraid to seek perfection. Chances are you’ll need to revisit the various stages of Information Fluency.
Online research and Information Fluency go hand in hand. Doing it well and efficiently requires the savvy to examine our sources for reliability and credibility, then processing the information into a well-oiled project. Giving credit to the sources that we use and collaborating for the finalization of our project round out the process for putting our online research to good use.