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Tarleton State University Libraries Unit 3
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image of question marks   To make your research process more efficient and productive, you should first define your information need (i.e. the kinds and amount of information you need to locate). Your information need will depend on the assignment's requirements and the research question you're trying to answer.

Questions to ask when defining your information need include

•  How much information is needed?
  -- Should you read background information to better understand the topic?
  -- Should background information be included in the paper?
•  How much detail is needed?
  -- Do you need to include detailed evidence in your paper?
  -- What kinds of detail are needed?
•  How current should the information be?
  -- Is your topic one in which change happens rapidly?
  -- Will your readers expect the information to be current, historical, or both?
•  Should the information be facts or opinions or both?
  -- What types of evidence does your reader expect?
  -- What is needed to best convince your reader?
•  Should the information come from primary or secondary sources?
  -- Do you need to locate or create original materials (primary sources)?
  -- Are works that analyze/interpret other works (secondary sources) needed?
•  Should the information come from scholarly sources?
  -- Should the information be peer-reviewed?
  -- What types of information will your readers expect?

Remember, your information need will change depending on the research questions you are trying to answer. Also, your information need will dictate which types of sources will be most useful in your research. The next section discusses various types of information sources.

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