Simplifying the Research Process

Patrons want to find information on their own. Quickly. Cheaply. Period. In an attempt to teach them "proper" search or research methods, librarians often give them more than what they want to know. We lecture on correct query formulation, the use of Boolean logic, and on analytical methods for determining quality in information. In essence, we contribute to information overload.

We should recognize that many patrons simply don't care, and then consider how we can help them accomplish simple research tasks. Below appear a few suggestions.

Don't Do
Don't Do ThisUse library terminology (e.g., Boolean, card catalogs, subject indexes). Use words and descriptions in common use (e.g., subject starting points, quick look-up sites, AND, OR, NOT).
Don't Do ThisPresent a show 'n tell of "good" resources. Present the basic research process (source consideration to starting point to query).
Don't Do ThisTeach Boolean (excepting advanced patrons/classes). Illustrate use of natural language engines (e.g., Google, Vivisimo).
Don't Do ThisIllustrate query formulation and interpretation of search results. Explain why search engines often do not work.
Don't Do ThisProvide complex evaluation skills (excepting advanced patrons/classes). Instruct on how to dissect a Web address.
Don't Do ThisAttempt to teach during one class what it has taken you years of education and experience to learn. Provide your contact information.


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This chart appears in Teaching Internet Research Skills, a teaching Web of The Virtual Chase at URL