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Research Guides

INFO 2010: Information Literacy in the Disciplines

This guide contains some of the readings for INFO 2010: Information Literacy in the Disciplines.

Joining the Research Conversation


You arrive late to a big gathering. People are already talking and laughing in small groups. You casually walk around until a conversation catches your interest. As you join in, you listen for a while until you feel confident that you know enough about the topic to share your own thoughts. The strategies for joining a conversation are similar to those you use in contributing to research.

Research is a conversation. Human knowledge advances and grows as people participate in an ongoing exchange of ideas, insights, and discoveries that build on (or tear down) what came before. You can join in this exchange by first exploring what others have said about a topic, then sharing your own insights. This is the reason why the motto of Google Scholar is "Stand on the shoulders of giants." The giants, those with big ideas who came before us, are helping us to build on those ideas and to further our thinking. Joining the conversation involves the ability to identify key ideas in information sources, then combine, or synthesize, those key ideas into your own work, always giving credit to the creators of those sources through citations.  

There are so many ways to organize your sources and information you use while conducting your research, but the most important part is to have a formalized system to do it. The better you keep track of your sources, and where you heard or learned what, the easier it will be to synthesize your sources, and the harder it will be to accidentally plagiarize through forgetting where you learned a piece of information. Luckily, there are many tools and tricks to make this easier, from keeping track of your sources, to organizing the information in the sources to draw those connections.