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Information seeking

Information retrieval as a process

Information retrieval is a process which begins from defining the need for information and proceeds to the analysis of the search topic, choosing information resources, performing the actual information retrieval, evaluating the results, and finally reaching an outcome, such as a completed learning assignment. When information is needed quickly to solve an everyday problem (e.g. finding the opening hours of the library), there is no need to plan the search.

However, when information is sought for broader study assignments (e.g. literary review, essay, thesis), it is necessary to make a plan and think about  to the information need, search terms, appropriate sources of information etc., and perform the actual seeking of information after that. For seeking everyday information, an Internet search engine is usually adequate, but you need to use organized databases for broader searches to succeed.

The different stages of the information seeking process from planning to carry out searches and using and evaluating information are explained on the following pages and visualized in the picture below.

The information seeking process

Picture: Terhi Kaipainen, CC-BY-SA 4.0

How to find different source materials?

How do I find a book?

  • The quickest way to find a book is to use a basic search on Kaakuri's front page. Search by the book or author name.

How do I search for a trade magazine article?

  • Do you know the name of the magazine or article? You can search for the magazine by name in Kaakuri basic search on the front page. Check out also the Press Reader from the page Xamk academic databases.

How do I look for a research article?

  • Go to the page Research publications and articles on this guide. Explore the material (e.g video How to find research and scientific information from Kaakkuri). If information retrieval feels tricky, go through this guide from the start.

How do I proceed with my thesis information retrieval?

Do you know different kind of source materials?

Depending on your assignment, text and source purpose, you can use very different source materials in your thesis and other learning tasks. If you are writing the theory part of your thesis, you need find research information, e.g. in the form of scientific articles. If, on the other hand, you are working on a learning task to which you need current information e.g. on the development of e-commerce in Finland, good sources can also be found in trade magazines and newspapers. How do you identify different types of information sources?

You can find help in identifying different source materials below and from the page Research publications and articles on this guide. You can find links to various databases in the page Xamk academic databases.

You might be asked to use research or scientific information in your assignment or thesis. In the assignment, there can be also mentioned a peer reviewed information. What does these actually mean? In this section, we will get acquainted with research and scientific information. You can find the how-to videos of the literature review, research information retrieval and the characteristics of the research article of the page Research publications and articles on this guide.

You find research and scientific information, for example from:

  • scientific journals, either in the form of a scientific article or a review,
  • a collection of scientific articles, e.g. yearbooks in a field,
  • studies published in the publication series of a university or research institution,
  • various theses such as dissertations, licentiates, master's or bachelor's theses

Different kind theses and things to consider when using them

When you choose research sources, it is good to bear in mind that theses are, as their name suggests, information compiled by someone else for a thesis. In this case, it is good to consider whether to use a dissertation or a master's degree thesis directly as a source, or to use and interpret the sources used in the thesis itself. The general basic principle of research is, that in any case, always reference one's own work to a higher degree. However, theses can be helpful when thinking about your topic and thinking about keywords. You can also find good sources for your own work from the list of references of the theses, even if you do not otherwise use the thesis in question as a source.

What is a peer reviewed article?

A peer reviewed article refers to an article that has been published in a scientific journal and before to publication the article has gone through a peer review process. The purpose of the peer review process is to ensure the quality of research, and this is why the article is assessed preliminary by other researcher in the discipline before publication. A number of Finnish scientific journals have a peer review ID (photo below) to help identify a peer reviewed articles. 

In foreign scientific journal, the information is in the article it self or in the basic information on the journal, if  it is peer reviewed or not. When you are searching a peer reviewed information, see if you can narrow your search by words such as peer reviewed or referee (Note! Be sure to check if the article is actually a research article or, for example, an editorial that appears in otherwise a peer reviewed journal). Also, the word journal or scholarly journal usually refers to a scientific peer reviewed journal.

The boundary between professional and scientific knowledge is not unequivocal, because a high-level professional publication may include articles which based on research. When searching for and using professional information, it is essential to be critical of how and where you use the information you find. The field of professional knowledge is wide and therefore can include multi-level of materials. It is good to practice information retrieval of professional knowledge during your studies, so that following your field is already a routine to you when you make a transition to work.

You find professional information, for example from:

  • professional journals, the content of which usually consists of professional expert knowledge in one field,
  • various professional web pages, such as professional associations or expert organizations,
  • handbooks and textbooks in the field,
  • the publication series of higher education institutions,
  • from professional videos or podcasts,
  • from a professional specialist.

Official information refers to information produced by various official bodies such as ministries and government institutions. This information is useful for your own learning tasks and in your thesis. However, always remember when using the information to check that the information you use, e.g. legislation, is still valid.

You find official information, for example from:

  • the pages of government offices,
  • the ministries pages,
  • from the municipal pages,
  • Finlex and Edilex legal databases,
  • various statistical pages,
  • of patent and standard databases.

In some cases, general knowledge available to all may also fit your assignment or thesis as the source material. General information, such as magazine articles, can also be used in some fields as material for your thesis, which is analysed in the thesis from a certain point of view. If you use general knowledge in your written works, consider each time carefully, why you use exactly this information, what its purpose is and how reliable it is.

You find general information, for example from:

  • newspapers and magazines,
  • TV and radio programmes,
  • podcasts,
  • YouTube, etc., from online videos,
  • blogs,
  • fiction,
  • pictures.
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