This module will introduce Information Literacy Skills (ILSs for short). These are the skills that will enable you to locate information that is appropriate for academic study, and then use and manage it effectively.
Developing high-quality ILSs will help maximise your chances of achieving good grades while you are studying at Queen Mary, but it is important to realise that these are life-long skills which will be of great value throughout your entire career. Spend time cultivating these skills now and it will pay off in the short and long term.
After completing this module you will have a good understanding of:
- why, when looking for information for your studies, it is a mistake to rely solely on Google and Wikipedia
- where you can go online to find reliable information
- some methods you can use to evaluate the information you find, and an understanding and increased awareness of the issues surrounding plagiarism
- some of the main referencing styles used in academic writing
- how you can use freely available software to efficiently manage your library of references and get the most from them
You may well come across some terminology when working through this module which is only vaguely familiar or perhaps even completely new to you: 'abstracts', 'citation', 'grey literature', 'periodical' and 'peer review', for example, sound rather obscure, but they are all commonly used in academic research and writing.
Learning the meaning of these and other terms will help you produce good quality coursework and essays, make sure you have a look at our glossary further down on this page
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The Information Adventure: Finding It! Using It! Referencing It!
Begin your own personal Information Adventure by watching this short cartoon:
The Information Adventure was a piece of fun, but it makes some serious points: effective academic research and writing is all about the continuous process of finding, assessing and utilising appropriate information, and then storing and managing it for future possible (re)use.
The process can be broken down into three stages:
- Find It!
- Use It!
- Reference It!
In this module we explore each of these stages in more depth, and suggest some simple but practical ways in which you can improve your ILSs and produce good quality essays and dissertations.
Remember while working through the module that ILSs are crucial, both during and after your time at Queen Mary. The modern economy is largely based on 'knowledge workers' who can access and use information effectively.
Expertise in finding and using information will help you maximise your employability. Demonstrating these skills will help you stand out at interviews, and – when you are in post – help you ensure that you realise your potential in the workplace: both you and your employer will benefit.
It all begins with the Information Adventure!
This you can use with confidence to produce good quality coursework.
Once you have completed this section you will:
- understand why relying solely on Google and Wikipedia is a flawed approach
- know where you can begin making more focused search strategies
- have been shown some examples of how to use Library Search for specific books and articles, and for a more general range of sources about a particular topic
- have seen a demonstration of the simplest way to search one of the most useful general academic databases
Read this section and try the two quizzes if you are feeling unsure about how best to assess and use the information you have found.
Once you have completed this section you will:
- know the essential questions to consider when you evaluate a piece of information
- have a grasp of what plagiarism means, why and how you should avoid it
Referencing is the process whereby you acknowledge your sources.
There are particular ways in which academic writing is referenced, and once you have completed this section you will know more about:
- the main referencing systems in use at Queen Mary
- where to obtain more detailed information about the particular referencing system you choose to use in your essays
- three freely available software packages that you can use to manage your collections of bibliographic information, PDFs, notes and citations
- Abstract: a short summary which can be used to judge whether or not an article is relevant to your research
- Article: a relatively short piece of academic work published in a journal and containing the most up-to-date research results and data
- Bibliography: a list of all of the books, articles and other sources that you have used during the course of research
- Boolean Operators: simple words (e.g. AND, OR, NOT) used to combine or exclude keywords in a database search, resulting in more focused and productive results. Boolean Operators can help you save time and effort by eliminating inappropriate results that you would otherwise have to read before discarding
- Citation: a direct quotation from, or a reference to, an article, book, author or some other source in a piece of academic writing
- Database: searchable electronic index of high quality published literature that is suitable for academic study and use
- E-book: an electronic book – available 24/7 provided you have access to an Internet connection and your Queen Mary password and login details
- Full text: the complete text of an academic article (or book), including the abstract, bibliography and references
- 'Grey literature': a wide range of documents (in electronic and/or print form) produced by governments, businesses and other organisations. Grey literature can be very useful but difficult to access because it is not published and distributed in the usual way
- ‘Hidden web’ (also sometimes called the ‘deep web’): important sections of the Internet not easily accessible via search engines such as Google; an academic database, for example, will be cordoned off from general usage by a subscription
- Information literacy skills (ILSs): an important set of life-long skills that enable people to effectively locate information that is appropriate for their needs, and then use and manage it efficiently
- Journal/Periodical: frequently published title that deals with a specific academic subject. Many journals/periodicals are now published electronically and Queen Mary subscribes to over 16,000
- Keyword(s) (I): words and terms used to index an academic article. Keywords are usually taken from the title, abstract and main text
- Keyword(s) (II): the essential words and terms which are selected by a researcher when searching an academic database for articles and other material relevant to his/her subject
- Peer review: a rigorous checking process that acts as a guarantee of academic integrity and quality; when reading an article in an academic journal you know that it will be a reliable and trustworthy source
- Plagiarism: knowingly or unknowingly using the work of someone else and claiming it as your own
- Reference list: list of the books, articles and other sources which you have cited in your essay or coursework; a citation in the text is linked to the corresponding item in the reference list thus enabling a reader to easily trace the original source
- Reference management software: software that helps you build and manage a bibliography and/or list of references and sources
- Referencing: the process whereby you fully acknowledge the books and articles that you have used while writing your essays and coursework
- Self-directed study/learning: the ability to independently search for, locate and then use in an appropriate manner journal articles, books and other academic materials
- Source: a book or article, website or other item, from which information has been obtained
- Turnitin: powerful software used by lecturers at Queen Mary when marking essays and coursework to check that their students have not taken material from books, journals and other publications without due acknowledgement. Turnitin also checks to ensure that students have not plagiarised the work of other students or lifted material straight from the Internet
Need help or advice? Contact the T&LS Team
Certificate of completion
"Find it! Use it! Reference it!" was created by the Teaching & Learning Support Team
We hope that what you have learnt in this module will help you in your studies and in your future career, and we would be happy to assist should you need any further advice with search skills and the use of information resources.
Have you completed all the quizzes? Congratulations! You can now get your