Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Big 6: Your guide to research!

Fifth grade students recently learned more about the Big 6 approach to research by doing an exercise in library class. They had already reviewed this technique in class with Ms. Russell, and by finding a way to apply it to information needs that come up in daily life they became more comfortable with actually using it.

Fifth graders came up with a variety of creative personal information needs such as finding out how to improve their playing in a particular sport, investigating their family's history, and learning more about an upcoming vacation spot.

People's information seeking behavior is a major area of study in the field of information science (i.e. library schools)! In this information age we are generally bombarded with too much information rather than too little and this can become overwhelming. A simple tool such as the Big 6 can help make looking for information - whether for school, work or personal use - a lot more manageable regardless of your age.

For children in grades K-2, there is the Super 3. The steps are:

1. Plan
2. Do
3. Review

Visit the website for more details!

For older students, there are two sites, both linked to the main kids' page, one for grades 3-6, and one for grades 7-12. The six steps are the same for both age groups, but the explanations and examples are given in more complexity for older students.

Virtually all information needs - from deciding which washing machine to buy to writing a report about the life of Jefferson Davis to choosing the perfect breed of dog for your family - can be broken down into manageable steps using the Big 6.

Many people procrastinate because the task facing them seems so large as to be daunting! If you notice this behavior in your child, you can help him or her by first taking a few minutes to break down the task into the following six steps:

#1 Task Definition: What needs to be done? (Being crystal clear about what you need to do is crucial before you get started! This will help keep you on track.)

#2 Information Seeking Strategies: What resources can I use? (Think creatively! Resources go well beyond books and the Internet to encompass people, organizations, periodicals, etc.)

#3 Location & Access: Where can I find these resources? (The library may have the perfect book for your project but unless you place a hold on it right away you may not get it in time. Or Aunt Mildred might be an expert in the area you need advice in, but you'd better call before she leaves on her 6 month trek around Nepal!)

#4 Use of Information: What can I use from these resources? (This is an area where many people get distracted by interesting but irrelevant information. Remember step #1? If what you read or hear doesn't apply to what you need to do, disregard it for now. Stay focused - and you can always go back later and follow up on that fascinating tangent.)

#5 Synthesis: What can I make to finish the job? (In the case of a school assignment or work project this may be determined by someone else. If it is a personal information need, you can define it for yourself: how about a list of characteristics your new digital camera should have? Or a cookbook of your family's favorite recipes to give as holiday gifts?)

#6 Evaluation: How will I know I did my job well? (Was that llama the perfect choice of family pet? Were you satisfied with your playing at the last chess tournament? Did everyone ask for second helpings of that new casserole you tried? This is an area where you can decide for yourself what the criteria for a job well done will be.)

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