6.4 Developing a strategy
Plan your use of IL skills and select methods
Exploring and planning an activity often results in a number of different options, possibilities and ways forward. Some approaches will be more feasible or will interest you more than others. At this stage you will need to think about how you will be using your information literacy skills and how you will assess the overall quality of your work.
Review the skills you will need to achieve your goals and the criteria you will use to check that you have achieved them. Opportunities and constraints to do with your level of personal expertise, availability of resources, access limitations, work patterns, health and safety issues, social, ethical and moral concerns may all influence your plans.
What decisions have you made about the sources and techniques you are going to use to find the information you need, and why have you made them? Starting points for searches include library catalogues, online databases, and the Internet. Different sources will have different pros and cons. For example a library may contain rare and specialist printed material, but may be difficult to visit, or access may have to be negotiated. CD-ROMs and databases may contain a vast amount of reliable material but you may need to spend time in learning how to search them effectively; the Internet may be easy to access but there are no controls over the quality of information you may find.
What type of information do you want; what are the strengths and weaknesses of the sources you plan to use? For example newspapers are good for interviews; academic journals for recent research in specialist areas; textbooks for drawing work and results together from range of sources; the Internet for information that changes frequently.
In handling information it is important for you to be aware of the legal, ethical and moral issues surrounding its use. For example you may have to seek (and pay for) permission to use any text, images or data that are protected by copyright law. Information containing details about individuals is likely to be controlled by data protection laws. Intellectual property rights may be claimed over certain types of ideas and information. Passing others’ words and ideas off as your own by not acknowledging their work through accurate citations and references is plagiarism, and will be penalised in any academic work.
Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available and set yourself some deadlines. Remember that plans are guidelines against which you can check progress, but also that all plans are based on assumptions about the future. Keep your plans under review and be prepared to modify them if circumstances change or if your assumptions don't work out. Record your decisions, plans and actions in your Skills File.
What information sources and tools do you plan to use, and how will you use them? Go back to any plans you have made and check that they are still relevant, up to date, legally and ethically sound, and realistic.
Activity: Developing your IL skills strategy
For this activity you will need to print out the Skills Sheet, ‘Developing your strategy’: click here to open it.
Outline a strategy for developing and improving your information literacy skills by focusing on the following questions. In developing your IL skills:
What do you hope to achieve?
What opportunities do you have for practising and improving your IL skills?
What resources, including help and advice from others, can you draw upon?
How do you intend to achieve your goals and outcomes, and what timetable have you set yourself? Include dates of any relevant assignments you intend to submit.
Make brief notes:
justifying why you have chosen your goals;
indicating the constraints – or your own styles and preferences for learning – which may influence the way you learn and improve your skills.
Refer to the figure below for an example of a completed Skills Sheet for this stage of the key skills framework.