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Defining Information Needs

Our information needs are determined by an assignment's requirements, the research questions we're trying to answer, how much we already know about a topic, who will read our research, and many other factors.

So, it helps to think critically about our information needs before we start looking for sources. Answering questions like those listed below can help us develop a research plan, save us time, and reduce our frustration.

  • How much information do I need?
    • Do I need to read background information to learn more about my topic?
    • Should I include background information in my paper?
    • What kinds of details should I include?
    • What types of evidence should I use?
  • What kind of information do I need?
    • Should I use peer-reviewed articles? Books? Web sites? A mixture?
    • Do I need to locate research studies, historical overviews, and/or interviews?
    • Should I use primary or secondary sources? Both?
    • Should I include facts? Opinions? Both?
  • How current should my information be?
    • Does my topic involve rapidly changing factors?
    • Will my readers expect the information I use to be current, historical, or both?