What Students Should be Able to Do: Seven Steps to Solving Information Problems

1. Define the need for information. What are you going to use the information for: work, play, or academics? Provide a frame of reference: whom do you need information about, what, when, where, how, why? What do you already know? Frame and focus your question.

2. Initiate the search strategy. Determine what information you will search for, often by dividing your question into a number of subquestions. Brainstorm ideas and organize them visually using lists, outlines, webs, or concept maps. List key words or concepts. Identify a number of potential sources and decide how to evaluate them.

3. Locate the resources. Using catalogs and other tools, search for print, audiovisual, and computerized resources in the school library. Using on-line data-bases, interlibrary loan, the phone, and the fax, look for information outside the school library, including through community resources, government offices, and people who know the subject. Using keywords, indexes, cross-references, and other search strategies, find specific information in the resources you have located.

4. Assess and comprehend the information. Skim and scan to identify relevant information. Differentiate between primary and secondary sources, identify what is fact and what opinion, and determine the point of view of each source and how current and authoritative it is. Recognize logical errors and omissions, as well as interrelated concepts, cause and effect, and points of agreement and disagreement. Classify, group, or label the information, and obtain it in the formats that best suit your learning style. Revise and redefine your information problem if necessary.

5. Interpret the information. Summarize information in your own words, paraphrasing or quoting important facts and details. Synthesize new information with what you know already. Organize and analyze it in a new way. Does this information address your original problem? Get new information or adjust your search strategy if necessary. Then draw conclusions based on the information you located.

6. Communicate the information. What is your conclusion or the resolution to your problem? What audience are you trying to reach, and will your approach be informative, persuasive, or entertaining? What format (written, spoken, visual) will work best in presenting the information? Create your presentation, providing appropriate attribution and documentation of your sources.

7. Evaluate the product and process. How well did you do? What could you or should you have done differently? How can you do better in the future? Ask yourself and others-classmates, teachers, library staff, and parents-how well your final product resolved your information problem and if the steps you took to do so were appropriate and efficient.

Adapted from “Information Literacy: A Position Paper on Information Problem Solving,” by the American Association of School Librarians, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611; telephone   800-545-2433    800-545-2433 .