Monday, May 28, 2012

Art of Finding #15: Creativity and Thinking

Useful perspective to Find & Learn: De Bono's work in creative thinking.  Edward De Bono's works are classic in the field of creativity.  His most famous book, The Six Thinking Hats, describes a technique that I have used through the years - although not a lot recently.  It is a technique for "brainstorming" in a group where we all jointly review a topic from different perspectives (e.g. emotional, critical).  The White Hat is one of the six and is the information hat where one reviews what information is at hand and what information is needed.  Sometimes I think librarians are teaching just to that one hat, rather than offering up searching in the more robust reality of the whole thinking context.  The same is true in terms of information literacy in context with critical thinking.  De Bono's latest book is called, Think! Before It's Too Late.  The other phrase used to describe his works is lateral thinking.  Try them out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Search Tips #13: Prove You Are an Expert?

Are you an expert on a topic?  What is it?  How can you prove that you know enough on a topic to express your opinion.  One professor of mine said, "I don't want to read about your opinion in your paper; I want to read what you found out."  That's true unless you are getting your doctorate and know more than most people in the world.  Is that extreme?  I suppose, but not in the current environment where everyone expresses an opinion whether or not they know the subject.

If you really want to prove to yourself that you know a topic, then call an expert and see if you can follow the discussion.  Can you even hold a discussion?  As a corporate researcher, I used to look up experts in the federal and state government and ask them questions.  I only did that after having thoroughly researcher it and talking to internal people to verify that I had good questions.  Then I could usually follow the discussion.

What a joy it is to become expert on something over time.  Think about it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Think About Searching, #17

How fast can you learn it?  That really is the question when your manager asks about something that neither of you knows.  They don't have the time to figure it out, read about it, look for it, or think about it.  They need some good information, some perspective and proposed solutions.  Do you think of yourself as a fast learner?  How about someone who can find something fast?  I think the two (learn & find) are very much related.

Think of it as a dual search.  One search is about getting the background and terms you need to continue your investigation.  The second search (run just about in parallel) is the investigation of the topic at hand: trying to find the data or the answers to the problem.  Both types of searches are important and the skills for each are different.  We tend to get distracted and we tend to ignore the significance of both.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Gulf Widens

The gulf between what you can find quickly (through Google) and what you can find otherwise is growing.  As I noted in a previous post - the set of sites you will search among when you do a Google search is only 10% of existing sites.  Do I care about the 90%.  In some cases no, but in other cases yes.  This again is about "owning the problem."  If you only need and are only doing a quick and easy look-up, then do Google.  But many times the expected answer will not be there or you may wind up puzzled.  Then what you need to do is not search, but investigate.  The word investigate implies a great deal more in terms of intent, dedicated effort, thoroughness, and importance.  You need a concerted strategy and you need to search among the subscription or grey-world of online resources to do an investigation.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Invest in Your Knowledge Skills

What do you have expertise in right now?  Think about any topic that you have spent time on.  Answer these questions:  Would you be able to talk to an expert in the field and understand what they are saying?  Do you know about key resources: stores, websites, associations, or local chapters?  Do you know others that are interested in the same topic and with whom you can share insights?  Do you read books on the topic or subscribe to magazines in the subject area?

If you are able to say yes and explain any of these than you are most likely more knowledgeable than the average citizen.  You could become a resource yourself!  That would be a decision to make - either as a vocation or occupation.  Think about your skills in terms of knowledge and look for ways to develop it.  Either it is fulfilling to your soul or to your wallet.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Making Choices

Do we want reliable answers for quick information?  With such ready information at hand, there is the illusion that quickness will bring you solutions.  We may find information, but is it reliable.  The step that most students miss is the step in which they check if the source of their information is reliable.  On the web it is fairly straightforward.  Find "About Us" or "Contact Us" links and see who is responsible for the page.  Check to see when the page was last updated (bottom line of the page).  If there is not background on the person or organization, do another search just on them.  For more important a search is - the more important it is to check the reliability of the information you found.  When you use library sources, that is, databases and sources that the library buys - they are acquired because they are reliable.  You increase the probability of good answers if you use library sources.