Research Hints: – The Basics

Information Literacy:

The six stages of Research

This circle can help you to complete effective research and produce your best work.

Start with the planning circle, think about the questions inside it and then move onto the next stage.

You can repeat this process several times before you complete your work.



Year 7 Information Literacy Programme: End of Year Challenge

End of Year Challenge


As an end of Academic year activity I challenge each of my Year 7 students to answer 20 questions – some easier than others.


So they have to pick out keywords; decide where to look; find the subject index; or use Oliver; remember where the encylopedias are; and then remember how to use some or all of these methods of finding information.


Some questions are easier than others; some students remember more than others but they all have ago and it is great to see the change in their confidence from when they first started at the start of the Academic year.




Year 6 induction days

Our brand new and shining Year 6’s have been with us here at the Academy yesterday and today.

Arhhh – bless them!

Apart from getting lost in such a large school they have been asessed and have taken part in some example lessons.

For instance in Geography the MRC has been working with year 6 students to find out about countries around the world and have been looking at some basic Information Literacy skills such as using contents, index and scanning for information.

I set them all a challenge to read 6 books over the long summer holidays and promoted the Public Libraries Reading Scheme.

Here are the slides….

Later in the day I give a short presentation to parents at their ‘induction’ – again emphasising the importance to keep reading over the summer, and and few tips on how to support their child to enjoy reading .

Year 7 Information Literacy Programme: Bibliographies


(not to be confused with Biographies!)


We touched very briefly on Bibliographies when we were evaluating books  – did they have one or something similar for example “Further Reading” usually at the back of the book near the index?


What does Bibliographies mean?

A few suggest that it is something to do with the Bible and we chat about word origins – Biblio being latin for book.


Moving on I share some videos about Plagiarism from Plato online, and emphasise that copying, and copying and pasting is cheating.


Students are amazed that this is the case. “But surely the people who put things on the internet know they are going to be copied?” said one innocent student. I pointed out that this wasn’t the case and gave “creative commons” as one example where the author or creator can give usage rights away depending upon use.


They continue to be amazed when they hear that TDA students have been ‘kicked off’ courses because of this plagiarism or cheating.


“But what happens if it’s a really good idea?”


Then you can use it IF you say where you found it! – put it into quotes and list the book; website; article in your……


wait for it…..





I demonstrate the order


Author, Date, Title, Place & Publisher


and where to find that information before setting them a challenge to create a mini bibliography on a topic of their choice.


Football, cricket and make-up are popular choices, but ghosts, athletics, and scouting are examples of some of the rarer topics chosen.

So a quick reminder about using the subject indexes and then we’re off to the MRC to find books to include in our bibliographies.


Year 7 Information Literacy Programme: Evaluating Resources

Evaluating Resources


In this session I ask my year 7 students to think about how and why they pick one resource over another.

We ‘brainstorm’ the 5 W’s before using them to evaluate a book.


The 5 W’s are, of course,








How we can use these to evaluate resources….



Who is the author? Why would we look for a particular author?


Perhaps we have a favourite author, or we know they are an expert in that subject. Or perhaps they are a Dr or a professor – this may mean we are more able to trust what they write.






What is a really easy one to work out. What is the book/resource about?


If we need to research Insects then knowing what the book about is probably the easiest way to evaluate a resource. If the book/resource is about fishing or aliens, or the Third Reich then we can quickly eliminate them. We probably do this without thinking about it.





When refers to when the book/resource was published.


Is the book old? Does it matter? How up-to-date is it?

The date a book was published is usually found on the back of the Title Page near the copyright symbol.


Just because a book is ‘old’ doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. However if you want to know about the new species of butterfly; or a newly discovered egyptian tomb, then an old book won’t cover that.





Where can we find the answers in the book? Does the book have a contents page or an index? Most good books do – but have a look at a series like the Horrible Histories Series, these contain lots of interesting information; presented in a fun way, but if you are looking for a particular keyword you have to scan the whole book as they don’t have an index.


Another useful thing to look for is a Bibliography; or ‘Further Reading’; or ‘More resources’ etc. These can be found at the back of the book – near the index and can provide us with more useful resources – or where to go next.





Why should we use a particular book over another?

Does it have pictures? Are these drawings (and subject to an artistic impression) or photographs (more realistic)? On the other hand drawings and diagrams may be more clearly labelled. It’s all about the reason why we are looking for them in the first place.


Another ‘why’ would be what I call the ‘Goldilocks’ question. This relates to the size of the text – is it too big? Too small? Or just right?

It is the Goldilocks question because we each need to find the best fit for ourselves. Perhaps the writing is too big, with not enough information or detail perhaps  too ‘babyish’ or easy? Perhaps the writing is so small that we cannot read it – if so – there is no point struggling – we need to find something better and more suited to our needs.



So evaluating resources is about thinking about why we are looking for; why we need that information and finding the best resource to help us.


Who, What, When, Where and Why are easy questions that can help us find the best resource.







Year 7 Information Literacy Programme: Reading for Bias

Reading for Bias


Year 7’s often struggle with Reading for Bias so I spend two sessions on this topic  – starting with a basic session looking at Fact and Opinion, followed by this session on Reading for Bias.


 We start this session with a quick look back at the previous lesson on Fact and Opinion- reminding them why the question of “Which is the best college in the Academy” causes such disagreement!


I then read them a story called “The Wolf’s Story” by Toby Forward (ISBN:  978 1406301625) 



This book tells the Wolf’s side of the story or what really happened to little red riding hood.


Or does it? 


Can YOU trust a wolf?





We then answer some critical questions about the story – Is the author / wolf biased? Is it one sided? Are all points of view included? Are bits of the story missing or changed?


We decide that we can’t trust this source so we need to read for bias, and look for accounts from the other sides of the story – Little Red, the axe/woodsman; Grandma and Little Red’s Mother (What did she put in that basket?).


We have some great discussions about the different versions of the story, and the origins of the story, which as a fairy tale has its’ roots firmly in the oral tradition of storytelling, which can end up being a bit like chinese whispers.


I end the session with a short video about Wikipedia and a discussion about how students need to check information found on Wikipedia with other more reliable sources. We then discuss why Wikipedia needs to be ‘read with a questioning mind’, and why we need to check other sources such as Britannica encylopedia. Looking briefly at the editorial process and peer review.


Year 7 Information Literacy Programme: Fact and Opinion

Reading for Bias


Year 7’s often struggle with Reading for Bias so I spend two sessions on this topic  – starting with a basic session looking at Fact and Opinion.


Firstly I hand out two slips of card with the letter “F” and “O” written on them and remind them about the different types of reading and the one that is most often forgotten is Reading for Bias.

So what does the letter “F” and “O” have to do with reading for bias?

Some groups need a little bit more prompting or clues than others with many sounding confident with their initial answer of “For and Against… Oh that’s wrong.”


We then talk about the differences between Facts and Opinions, and about how you can prove or measure facts but opinions are what someone thinks.


The hard bit is when a writer (of a newspaper article or a webpage) uses both together – that’s when you need to read carefully looking for bias.


I put a series of statements onto the screen and the students need to decide if it is a fact (can be proved/measured) or an opinion (what someone thinks), they then hold up their “F” card if they think the statement is a fact, or the “O” card if they think it is an opinion.


The fun begins when statements such as…

Coca-cola tastes better than Pepsi


McDonald’s burgers taste better than Burger Kings


They tend to be better at spotting a fact – but get misled when they agree with the opinion.


The last statement causes the biggest stir…



Why do so many agree with this opinion (no really it is an opinion!) – could they possibly be biased?




They then have a go at writing three facts and opinions – about themselves, their best friend and their home.


The last topic is the one that fools them the most with ‘facts’ such as “my house is big” and I often ask them what the Queen would think if she visited their home!


Year 7 Information Literacy Programme: Skimming and Scanning

A closer look at Skimming and Scanning.


 Since Skimming and Scanning are often muddled up by students this session concentrates of these two reading techniques, by giving them practical activities to do.


Skimming – a fast reading technique to get a quick idea what a book; website; chapter or page is about. (General Impression).

I give the students two skimming activities by asking them to skim read by looking for clues (headings, titles, or pictures), then I put a page on the screen for 5 seconds and ask them what the whole page was about.




Scanning – another quick reading technique – this time looking for an answer to a question. Tip – make sure you understand the question. Is is a Who, What, Where, When or Where question as this affects the answer you are looking for. (Number, Place name etc).


I have 15 questions about a job advert and give one question to each pair of students. Then make sure they understand their question before putting the job advert on screen for 30 -60 seconds (depending upon the ability of the group). Students need to scan the advert for their answer.


Having done both types of these fast reading techniques the students gain a better understanding of the differences and why they might read in these ways.





Year 7 Information Literacy Programme: Different Types of Reading

The latest Information Literacy session is an introductory session looking at different types of reading.


I demonstrate five types of reading:


Scanning : I scan for a fact (phone number)using a telephone directory


Skimming : I have covered a book about “Earth Sciences” in plain paper, I then flick through and skim read the chapter headings and the students have to work out what the book is about


Detailed Reading : I sit down and demonstrate reading for understanding, and make notes in the process




Reading for Bias : I show and read out an advert. Then discuss selling an ‘idea’ rather than just a product.




finally my favourite type of reading…

Reading for pleasure : I sit, relax and read my current reading material (Carnegie Long LIst books at the moment.


I then put the class into small groups and they are given four sets of cards. One set has the name of the type of reading, a second set  why we would use that type of reading, the third set describes how we would read, and the fourth set is a picture clue. The groups have to match the cards for each type of reading.


Common mistakes every year are the muddling of Skimming and Scanning, and confusion over Bias. But we have a closer look at these in later sessions…..

Year 7 Information Literacy Programme: Oliver


By having a closer look at searching for famous people, or famous places I was able to demonstrate and then allow students to use Oliver to find Dewey Shelf numbers.




Building on our previous sessions about picking a good keyword to unlock a question, I gave them three homework examples and asked them to identify the keyword.

As we were concentrating on names of people or places (Pablo Picasso, Mount Etna, etc) they had to work out that the second part (or surname) was the most important part. 


For example searching with “Mount” will find lots of infomation about Mountains in general, but searching with “Etna” will find less information but the finds will be more closely linked to Etna.

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage

Screenshot of the Oliver Homepage


I then went onto demonstrate where to find Oliver, (on the VLE) 

how they can check which books they have borrowed, 

and how to do a Subject Search.



Students then logged onto a computer and found their way to Oliver before searching for Walt Disney, River Rhine, City of London, and Nelson Mandela, and recording the Dewey Shelf Number for each. Once completed they could then go on to explore their own account, and search for their favourite author, series or title, before hunting for the books in the MRC.