Process What You’ve Read

Information Literacy Module VI: Preparing to Use Information Effectively

Take your sources and set them aside where you can’t see them. Really? Really! After finding, evaluating, reading, and having imaginary conversations with your information, you should be ready for the exciting step of processing what you’ve learned.

Find a willing listener. It doesn’t have to be someone in the class who understands the assignment, but it should be someone capable of understanding your topic and asking good questions (no goldfish or pre-schoolers). Tell your listener a little bit about the assignment, and then begin talking about your topic. (Encourage your listener to interject with questions whenever he or she wants clarification.) Start easily by explaining why you chose the topic, what you knew about it to begin with, and what your research question was. Then, get into some new territory. Explain what you’ve learned through research. What is your favorite source, and why? What surprises you most about what you’ve learned? What prior knowledge has been confirmed by your research? Most importantly, and this may take some “Ummms” and “Hmmms,” what do you think it all means? In other words, what is the answer to your research question? As you look toward your research assignment – whether it’s a research paper, a presentation, or something else – what do you think your point will be?

Alone? No problem! Hold your side of the conversation in writing. An informal free-write exploring everything you’ve learned so far can be just as helpful. Answer your research question to the best of your ability using the information you’ve learned through your research. Try pretending that you’re explaining the concepts to someone new to the subject. Don’t worry about writing well; instead, use this as a thinking-on-paper exercise.

Whether you explain your topic out loud or on paper, you’ll find that you feel more confident in your understanding of it after this exercise. Hopefully, you’ll even have come to some important conclusions in response to your research question and be ready to begin shaping the final product of your research assignment.

Guiding Your Research
Have this conversation (either with a willing listener or on paper), and share your conclusions with your instructor. If your conversation was held out loud, submit a recording of the conversation or a list of bullet points highlighting your favorite conclusions.

 

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