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Library: Research & Subject Starters

What is Information Literacy?

Information Literacy (IL) is the formal name we give to the set of evaluative and decision making skills you already have and use regularly. If you've selected a meal from a menu or chosen classes for an upcoming semester, you've used your IL skill set!
Research assignments are a chance for you to identify and practice your IL skills and make them stronger. Watch the posted video to get started, or follow the link below to learn more.
Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

Research is Like Building a House

The research process is sort of like building a house. You'll need a strong foundation, good materials, and thoughtful planning to achieve a sturdy result. Watch this series of brief videos to introduce each stage of the research process.

  Foundation Video
  Frame Video
  Fill Video
  Finish Video
  Contractors Video

Navigating the Open Web

Compass IllustrationUsing the open web to find information can feel overwhelming. It's huge and constantly changing. And it moves so quickly! But if we're willing to take a deep breath and keep a "level head," this speedy exchange of ideas can be extremely useful in our research. In fact, there's a lot of useful information to be found on the open web that ISN'T available anywhere else. Here are some steps you can take to help efficiently sort the useful from the junk:

Treasure Map Illustration
Mountain Stream Illustration
Maritime Signal Flags Illustration
Life Preserver Illustration

Look for previous work

Go upstream

Read laterally

Circle back

  • When you encounter something suspicious, use your favorite fact-checking sites to see if that questionable claim has already been investigated.
  • Search key components or phrases from a questionable claim, and look for articles published by well-known, trustworthy sources.
  • Use wiki pages to seek out consensus opinions on an idea - then use the wiki's reference list to backtrack to reputable sources.
  • When a source passes on information second- or third-hand (often with intro phrases like "as reported in..."), do your best to backtrack and find that original source and context.
  • Investigate where a source came from. Is it unique to the publication? Provided by a syndication service? Is it sponsored content?
  • Try filtering your searches by date and time - older info is often presented as "news," especially on social media.
  • Don't linger on a page - get outside confirmation from reliable, independent sources.
  • When there is no obvious consensus or proof of a claim, opening new tabs in your browser and finding multiple outlets to confirm that claim is a way to create your own consensus.
  • This is how professional fact-checkers work, and it's shown to be more efficient and accurate than "deep-diving" into a webpage to investigate it.
  • Research rarely gets completed in one pass; be prepared to go back to the beginning and search some claims again.
  • As you learn more about an idea or questionable claim, you'll likely uncover new and more refined questions to explore on your next round of investigation and fact-checking.

Thinking Emoji IconDon't forget: Research is meant to be methodical and level-headed, so do your best to check your emotions. Claims that get a strong, "knee-jerk" emotional response are the claims you likely want to use or share right away. They're actually the claims that are most in need of investigation and verification! Acknowledge your feelings and opinions - we've all got them - then challenge yourself to be objective and logical as you fact-check and investigate sources.

For More Information:

  • Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers: Mike Caulfield's book was the primary source for this area of our site, and we strongly recommend it to all SMCC community members. The text includes lots of info, tips, tricks, and links that we couldn't fit here.
  • Media Bias Chart: Ad Fontes Media provides users with the Media Bias Chart to help evaluate and make sense of the ever-changing news landscape. The chart is reviewed and updated regularly by teams of readers from a wide variety of backgrounds.
  • Some reliable fact-checking sites to try:, the Washington Post fact-checker, or even good old Snopes!

Brightspace Logo Image

The Learning Commons is in Brightspace! Look for the following resources:

  • Library & Research Skills Orientation: A non-credit mini-course designed to introduce the research process and point out useful resources.
  • WISH - Workshop in Studying Here: A non-credit mini-course designed to introduce and reinforce success skills like time management and note-taking.
  • Links to our sites and services are also given in the Resources drop-down menu for every course!

Need a little extra support?

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Research Starters by Subject

Arts & Design Button Business Button Education Button
Health Science Button Humanities Button Life Science Button
Physical Science & Applied Technology Button Political Science & International Relations Button Public Safety & Service Button
  Social Science Button