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INF 110: Introduction to Research Essentials

This guide expands on the topics you've explored in INF 110: Introduction to Research Essentials.

What is Information?

In the last module, we learned what information literacy is. Now it's time to ask the even broader question: what is information?

We could look at a formal definition, such as this one from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. According to that source, there are five main definitions of information, including "knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction [...] intelligence, news [...] facts, data" (Merriam-Webster, 2021).

A much simpler and all-encompassing definition might be "something that tells us about something." Not very eloquent, but let's look at some examples of information use during a typical morning:

You wake up and look at the clock to see what time it is, and if you need to get up. You do, and as you set up your laptop for the day ahead, your stomach growls with hunger pangs and you decide to make some toast. You notice an older loaf of bread that's been in the refrigerator awhile, but you check the "sell by" date on the package to make sure it's okay to eat, and then pop two slices in the toaster. Minutes later, the toaster beeps loudly, letting you know the toast is ready. Meanwhile, you browse the several different flavors of jelly that are currently in your refrigerator and decide to go with raspberry this morning.

Later, you turn on your phone and immediately notice the battery is low, so you plug it in to charge. After you do so, a number of notifications pop up from your social media apps. One of these is a message from a friend who will be in town this weekend, wondering if you'd like to meet up for lunch. You check your calendar to make sure you're available, and then say sure. They then mention that they've recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, so you’ll need to find a restaurant that has gluten free food.

You open up the Yelp app on your phone, and search for gluten free food in your area. You notice that many of the restaurants are listed as $$$, which means they could be quite expensive. You select the option that limits to $$ restaurants instead, and the new list of results that appear reflect that change.

For now though, it’s time to sign into your MCPHS email. There’s an announcement for one of your classes with the instructions for an upcoming paper. You read through it and notice you’ll need to find 4 peer-reviewed journal articles as your sources. You’re not sure where to start finding those, but will think about it later.

And so on!

In the four short paragraphs above, we’ve seen numerous examples of finding, accessing, evaluating, and using different types of information. Everything from checking the clock, to feeling hunger pangs, to the toaster beeping counts, because each one of those things is something telling you about something. This gets even more sophisticated when you start searching the Yelp app and select $$ restaurants, which changes your list of results. As you’ll see, library databases contain similar functions, that allow you to only see the types of results you actually want. Knowing that the dollar amount limiter exists, and knowing that Yelp is the correct app to find this type of information takes a certain level of technological skill, although it might not feel like it. Someone who has never used Yelp – or take it even further back, someone who doesn’t use a smartphone (there are still people out there who don’t!) might not know where to begin with such a thing.

In this course, you’re going to learn the right places to access in order to obtain the academic information you are looking for. Using library databases can feel like a daunting task at first, but with some practice, you will be able to navigate them just as successfully.


Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Information. In Dictionary. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from

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