6.1 Information Gathering

Laura Haygood

Learning Objectives

At the end of this section, the learner will:

  • Understand how one goes about seeking information
  • Create a plan for an assignment or project
  • Explain peer review and its importance

How We Gather Information

Brenda Dervin, a researcher in information-seeking behavior, asserts that an individual’s quest for knowledge can be compared to a journey. An individual finds themselves in a situation where they become aware that there is a gap in their knowledge, then the individual takes steps to bridge that gap, then they continue their journey. Dervin calls this process gap-bridging. Gap-bridging can be broken down even further, as the individual attempts to define the gap they face. Before attempting to bridge the gap, the individual must first face it, define the gap, then consider the strategies they will use to bridge it (Savolainen 2006, 1120).

You are already following this process every day, without even realizing it. For example, let’s say you went to get a flu shot and the nurse said “would you like the flu nasal spray? It’s a live vaccine?” You realize you don’t know what she meant by “live” vaccine. In order to fill this gap in your knowledge, you search Medline Plus to learn what a live vaccine is. Congratulations, you just bridged a gap!

The process is the same when you are seeking information for your coursework. It is important for students to understand that gap-bridging, or the process of seeking information, is an iterative process. An iterative process is one that you repeat multiple times, getting closer to achieving the correct result with each repeat. You may try your search, discover that the results are not what you’re looking for, then go back and adjust your search terms and try again. It may feel like a large task, as you realize there are many gaps to bridge, but don’t hesitate to consult with a librarian. They can guide you to the most relevant resources.

Step-by-Step Process for Information Research

You will bridge many gaps as you gather information for your assignment, including making certain you understand the expectations of the assignment. When working on a research assignment, use the following steps to make a plan and stay organized as you complete the assignment.

1. Understand the assignment

Make certain that you understand each element of the assignment, and what is being expected of you. Carefully read the assignment, the syllabus, and the grading rubric, if your professor has provided you with one. If there is anything you don’t understand, ask your instructor! They may be able to answer your question quickly, or they may suggest that you stop by their office hours. Many students are intimidated to visit their professor during office hours, and they are missing a terrific opportunity to learn more and ask questions.

2. Make a plan

Make a list of the tasks you need to complete and set deadlines for yourself to accomplish each one. Be sure to build in extra time in case there are delays. You may need to ask your professor a question, and it may take a couple of days to get a response. You may want a resource from the library that may take a few days to become available. Someone may have checked out the item, or the library may not have it and will need time to borrow it  for you from another library. Building in extra time allows for delays without putting you at risk of missing the assignment deadline.

3. Explore a topic that interests you

If you are able, find a topic that interests you. Perhaps it’s a topic that intersects meets your assignment guidelines but also intersects with your interests. Do some preliminary searches to explore the major themes of the topic. (See Chapter 6.2 for more information on how to search databases).

4. Craft your thesis

Now that you’ve explored your topic, what argument would you like to make? Your thesis is the statement/argument you’d like to make in your paper, the argument you will support throughout your paper. You may need to refine your argument based on the sources you gather.

5. Refine your search/gather sources

Now you need to refine your search to gather sources that address your thesis statement. Keep in mind what types of information your professor will allow you to use. Some assignments lend themselves to using non-academic sources, such as newspapers and blogs, while others require that you only use peer-reviewed research.

Peer review is a process scholars use to ensure that research within the field is reliable and reputable. Before a peer-reviewed journal will publish a paper, other experts in the field read it to ensure the research methods are sound and the claims match what the research shows.

6. Complete the assignment

Once you have your sources, it’s time to complete the assignment. If you need assistance with your writing,  Make sure you cite all the research you use in your paper. This textbook covers citations and references in  Chapter 6.4.


Locating a Database

Libraries offers hundreds of databases, each containing thousands of articles covering a range of subjects and eras.

Specifically, here at UTA:

  • To find a database relevant to your work, visit the Libraries’ A-Z databases page, then select the subject you’d like to research for a list of relevant databases.
  • Use your Net ID to access databases from home or elsewhere.
  • Read many database articles online.
  • Print, save, or e-mail articles from databases.

Libraries often list relevant databases by subject. Locate ‘Nursing’ in the subject guide page. What are some of the top recommended databases for nursing?



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