Once your students have tentative research paper topics, they need to
decide where to search for information on their topics. Many turn to
Google and Wikipedia first.
See Expected Learning Outcomes and Methods for help with this problem.
2. Expected Learning Outcomes:
After going through an exercise or
watching a video or going through the Road to Research tutorial on how
information flows from event through various media, all students will
identify where to start searching for information on a topic in the
A. Online information literacy tutorial: Includes pretests, lessons, interactive
exercises, quizzes and videos. This section will help students determine which
types of research tools are useful for which purposes, and identify
useful free and licensed databases for research.
"Road to Research: Starting Points: Research Tools"
B. Questions for learners to ask about databases:
1. What topics do they cover?
2. What sorts of materials do they index or provide?
3. What time period do they cover?
C. Flow of Information exercise*:
- Pose a fairly current well-known topic to the group--e.g., the election of Barak Obama as 44th U.S. President.
- Instructor: "Where did you first hear that Barak Obama had been elected President?"
- Responses may include the web, radio, TV, friends.
- Write those responses on a board or flip chart, in a column on the left
- Instructor: "Where did you hear more about it later?"
- Write those responses under the first responses, in approximately timeframe order--e.g., newspapers, then magazines.
- Add "journals" under "magazines," and then add "books," followed by "reference books"
- Instructor: "What we're doing is illustrating a timeline from event through media reporting on it."
- Instructor: "Tell me an approximate timeframe for each of these types of media, from occurrence to reporting on it."
- Write those times in a second column, to the right of the first column.
(See "Road to Research: Starting Points: Research Materials" for details.)
- Instructor: "Now, let's say you want to revisit this even at a later time
and do a research paper on it. Where would you search for each of these
types of items?
- Write responses in a third column on the right (See "Road to Research: Starting Points: Research Materials"
for suggested research tools. You may wish to add Google Scholar, but
warn students that Google does not fully identify the scope of this
research tool. In addition, articles they find through Google Scholar
may only be free if the UCLA Library subscribes to the journals in
which those articles appear.
- Instructor: "It is important to keep this flow of information in mind, as
it can save you lots of time. If you want to research a fairly current
topic, you should probably start toward the top of the columns, or
broaden your topic to include context and historical background. For
established topics, sometimes an encyclopedia overview can be a good
starting point, though you should compare the information you find in
any encyclopedia with other reliable sources".
*Adapted from Sharon Hogan's orignal 1980 "Flow of Information" conceptual approach to library instruction.
D. Dissecting a Database exercise:
Dissecting a Database
hands-on learner-discovery exercise for identifying useful databases
and distinguishing among their various features and scope. (UCLA
"Road to Research: Starting Points: Research Tools":
Note: While still available, "Road to Research" has not been maintained by the UCLA Library since Summer 2011, and may be out of date. It is used here as an example.