Monday, February 14, 2011

Quotable Quotes: Information Literacy, Investigators, and Imagination

Mary W. George's book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know seems to be very readable.  It ought to be a great textbook for freshmen and college students in general.  She works to make the research process less intimidating and convince students that it is doable, which it is.
"Most people tend to panic and falter in a formal setting such as a class- or work-related project imposed by an authority figure.  This is a variant of the fight- or flight instinct, the urge to understand versus the urge to duck.  Since the point of education is to learn and apply, it follows that ducking is not an option, whereas understanding is. Any discomfort you might feel with library research is perfectly normal--but so is your innate ability to master the tools and process" (14-15). 
Students do encounter moments of trepidation, speaking from personal experience, else why would procrastination continue to thrive as such a time-honored traditions?  How can students and researchers overcome their fears about research?  A simple answer is that we just need to go to work, discover the questions, and seek viable solutions.  George encourages a positive perspective--looking at it as a game.
"Whatever their characteristics, all research projects require imagination and the ability to turn an assignment into an investigation, a topic into an inquiry" (15).
I tend to think that students would enjoy reading this book, but I am a librarian who enjoys reading and thinking about this kind of thing, so take that for what it is worth.  George's writes this book better than most of the authors of my library science textbooks at any rate.  She helps to demystify the process with a relaxed style--definitely not formal and stiff.

With my Spanish-speaking background, I traveled to Guatemala as a BYU student one summer to conduct some research.  One of the gentlemen I met there had cable television, so he was rather well-to-do, and he was even working on a university degree at the time.  Anyway, he would call me "Spencer, el investigador" after the TV show more commonly known as "Spenser: For Hire."  Yeah, I got that a lot in elementary school when the TV show aired originally.

Still, I like the idea of approaching research as a private investigator.  A problem comes up, a solution needs to be found, so questions need to be asked.  Sometimes it helps if you can develop strategies for solving certain types of problems, and sometimes the informants (databases, for example) are reluctant to divulge information they have.  Knowing how to ask questions (construct search statements) proves to be valuable, yielding desirable results.

Incidentally, no relevant results from the TV show came back when I searched for images labeled for reuse within the Google Advanced Image Search.  Check out some of the following if you are interested:
Tragically, I do not recall having ever seen these TV shows, so I did not even know the main character spelled his name with two s's. 

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