Monthly Archives: February 2009

New Guides Page at the Library Website!

Our instructional librarian, Emily Bush, has redeveloped the library guides page to make the information much more accessible to students.

Now broken down into categories, student can easily find the following information:

  • Subject Guides
  • Research Tips (From the Jolly Librarian!)
  • Plagiarism Information
  • Tutorials
  • Orientation

Check it out for yourself.  Go to the guides tab on the Kisber library homepage or click here!

Information Literacy Standard 1: The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed. (Part 2)

Today, we’ll look at the second part of Standard 1. Once the student articulates the need for information, it’s time to identify the types and formats of potential sources.That’s a very fancy way of saying you need to know the types of sources available to you.

There are many ways to organize sources:

Primary vs. Secondary Sources: (Primary sources are the original materials that are studied and analyzed. Secondary sources are works that analyze and interpret other works. For example, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a primary source. An essay in a journal discussing racism in the novel is a secondary source. Depending on the assignment, you may use one or both of these types of sources.

You may need to develop some primary source material of your own:

Popular vs. Scholarly: Watch this tutorial from Vanderbilt University that helps to distinguish between the two.

Current vs. Historical: Sometimes you need the most updated information for a paper. At that point, you probably want to limit your sources to the last couple of years. Other times, you may need to go back. For example, you want to find out what critics said during Roosevelt’s New Deal. You would want to look at articles from the 1940s.

As smart researcher, you have to evaluate the costs and benefits of getting information. In the 21st century, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to check every source on a subject. Therefore, you have to make some tough decisions. At what point have I done enough interviewing to make sure I’ve covered the topic? How many articles do I read before I have the full story? Is reading a summary of Holocaust survivors’ experiences enough or should I consult actual diaries and journals? There is always one more source to consult; at some point, you have to say enough.

And on that, I’m saying enough for today!

Monday Motivator: Write a note of gratitude.

We are bombarded with mail. The average person receives about 70 emails a day and lots of junk mail. But when was the last time you received something handwritten and thanking you for something you did or for just being you?

So this week, take time out to write a note to someone and thank them. Some suggestions:

  • your parents for their love and support
  • a colleague who always has your back
  • the woman at the grocery store who always goes the extra mile
  • a teacher

It doesn’t have to long or fancy. Just sincere. It will make someone’s day and probably yours as well.

Information Literacy Standard 1: The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.

This, at first, may seem like a no-brainer. After all you know when you need information, right? Well, maybe. Maybe not. The first standard goes beyond just knowing whether or not you need information. It includes several parts, but today we’ll look at just one: defining and articulating the need for information.

For most students, the need for information occurs when the instructor assigns a research project. At that point, students need to do the following:

  • Understand the assignment and the types of sources that are required.
  • Spend some time reflecing on what they already know about the subject.
  • Develop a thesis statement.
  • Read general sources, such as encyclopedias,  to get an overview of the topic. The Kisber Library has several subject matter dictionaries online.
  • Modify the thesis to ensure there is a manageable focus.

In general, this is a key first step that is often overlooked. We may not know that we don’t know something. Or we may be too much in a hurry that we don’t spend time getting an overview and developing a tentative thesis. But if we take the time to know that we need certain types of information, the rest of the process will go more smoothly.

Information Literacy: What It Is and Why You Should Care!

Imagine a student in the olden days (let’s say the 1970’s and 80’s). She’s writing a research paper and has had a difficult time finding some sources. She goes to her instructor about the problem. The instructor is very sympathetic and gives her some hints, even allowing her to turn the paper in late.

Now fast forward a few decades: You are also writing a research paper. You go to your instructor and tell him that you can’t find sources. The instructor turns to his desk computer and types in a couple of keywords, and thousands, even millions, of hits appear on the screen.

Which is the harder situation? Well, you should know the Jolly Librarian well enough by now to see that this is a trick question. Both are difficult, but in different ways. Obviously, not being able to find source material is a problem. But since the advent of the Internet and the number of books and articles placed in databases, it’s not a problem the beginning researcher will often encounter.

The problem today is the amount of information you will find: thousands of articles at your fingertips can be overwhelming, and, if you don’t choose carefully, your paper can suffer. Ten weak sources don’t equal one solid source.

With all the information at your disposal, it’s important that you have information literacy. (Yes, here’s another literacy that you should have to be a success in college and the real world, along with reading, writing, math, critical thinking, and computer skills.)

What is information literacy?  According to the Association of College and Research Libraries, information literacy is “the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.” The ACRL has also issued five standards of information literacy, and that’s what we’ll be discussing for the next few days.

Why should you care about information literacy?

Basically, there is a lot of bad information out there. (Just check the 9/11 conspiracy websites if you don’t believe me.) Being information literate means you can find the information you need,  judge its validity, and use it properly. Skills that will serve you well in college and in the workplace!

Improving Ourselves (and maybe even a little bit of the world)

Here at NSCC, a group of us started a weekly resolution to do something that would improve our lives or improve the environment or our college, etc. I thought it would be nice to share this on Mondays so that others might join in if they wish.

For this week, the suggestion is : Read a book!

Now, this is probably not a surprise coming from the Jolly Librarian. Still, even people who like to read often put aside a book until they have time, and then they never have time.

But the benefits of reading are all positive:

  • Reading builds vocabulary and spelling skills.
  • Almost all good writers are avid readers.
  • A recent newspaper article linked President Obama’s eloquence with his love of reading.
  • Reading is just plain fun.

So this week, pick up a book. Let me know what it is!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m reading Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo.