Information Formats

In this unit, the student will recognize that information is available in a variety of formats.

Information Formats Video

In this 3 minute and 40 second tutorial, find out why the form information takes is so important. This tutorial was created by Kathy Clarke.

Information Formats Video Transcript

[IMAGE of tools in the Madison Research Essential Toolkit]

Narrator: Welcome back to the Madison Research Essentials Toolkit. With this tutorial we’ll be working with this learning outcome:

[IMAGE of the Information Literacy learning objectives, focusing on the first competency]

Narrator: “Recognize that information is available in a variety of forms including but not limited to, text, images and visual media” General Education, Information Literacy Learning Outcome.

[IMAGE of a poster with the text “Form follows Function”]

Narrator: Why is the form of information something we think it is important for you to understand early in your academic career? It is important because the form of information drives where you look for an answer. Let me explain.

[IMAGE of a big dog sheltering a little dog]

Narrator: For this example, I’m going to focus on scholarly information that is readily available in JMU Libraries and we’re going to move from the biggest type of source to progressively smaller ones.

[IMAGE of the Encyclopedia of the Victorian Era]

Narrator: Let’s say you have been assigned to write and research about something related to the Victorian Era, but you don’t even know what about the era you are going to write about. This is a great question for a really big source – an encyclopedia. And you might have already thought about consulting the biggest encyclopedia there is, Wikipedia. That might get you started, but I’m going to recommend you think about a subject encyclopedia, like the Encyclopedia of the Victoria Era. This four volume set is a comprehensive look at all aspects of the Era. Four volumes. Wikipedia gives the era 14 sections, while this encyclopedia covers over 600 elements of the era written by experts in each area. See the difference? What you get in convenience in Wikipedia you pay for in coverage scope.

[IMAGE of a picture from the Encyclopedia of the Victorian Era]

Narrator: While browsing through the encyclopedia, I find an entry on poverty and pauperism that looks interesting. Reading through this three page entry, I can find out that being poor was a pretty miserable experience during the era. There wasn’t much in terms of social safety nets and there was a large population of laborers whose skills were becoming obsolete. This entry also tells me about the big differences in the “haves” and “have-nots” and talks about some of the charitable institutions that formed during the period. I even find out there is sensational literature of the era where radical writers tried to bring the suffering of the poor to the attention of the public by writing graphically about the suffering of women and children.

[IMAGE of an entry in the JMU library catalog of a book, “The Bitter Cry of Outcast London; An Inquiry into the Condition of the Abject Poor”]

Narrator: OK, now the subject is more interesting. I’m narrowing and focusing in on a topic AND I’m finding sources along the way that will help me. This encyclopedia entry has a bibliography at the end that refers me to this book, “The Bitter Cry of Outcast London; An Inquiry into the Condition of the Abject Poor” in our E-book collection. And if I click on the subject heading: Poor-England-London-History-19th Century

[IMAGE of an alphabetical listing of Subject Headings with the Poor-England-London-History-19th Century highlighted]

Narrator: it leads me to seven other sources on this topic, including,

[IMAGE of an entry in the JMU library catalog of a book, “Slumming: sexual and social politics in Victorian London”]

Narrator: this one, a 400 page E-book about the intersection of the poor and the people and organizations that attempted to assist them. 400 pages. I use this as an example to give you an idea about what a scholarly book is designed to do. It takes a meaty topic and deals with it comprehensively in some depth. A book is smaller than an encyclopedia, but it gives more detail.

[IMAGE of the e-book table of contents for “Slumming: sexual and social politics in Victorian London”]

Narrator: This is an e-book, and this book also will cite sources just like the encyclopedia article did. Like this article from the Journal of Social History. This is another scholarly information “form.”

[IMAGE of a full-text article]

Narrator: New university scholars often make the mistake of thinking that the shorter the source the easier it will be to use. Not true. It is important for you to consider what type of source you need at a given time and then figure out what type to use. That is why understanding that information comes to you in a variety of forms is so important.

[IMAGE of JMU Libraries list of Databases and Resources webpage]

Narrator: And it isn’t just books. Just a look at the Research Database page in the libraries can give you sense of the variety of the kinds of information we provide. Statistics, music, films as well as resources tailored for specific disciplines are readily available in your libraries.

[IMAGE of the JMU Libraries Background Information webpage]

Narrator: We don’t need you to decipher what kind of source you need, but you should certainly ask a librarian for assistance. When you are new to a topic, consider a big source to get you going. JMU Libraries offers many subject encyclopedias in both print and electronic editions to get you going. Consult the Background Information Page on the libraries website to get started

[IMAGE of the JMU Libraries website homepage focusing on the Ask the Library link]

Narrator: or ask for help either in person or by clicking on the Ask-the-Library button.

End of Information Formats Video Transcript