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Course Research Guides

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (ACRL)

“Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”


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Finding and Mapping Background Information


Brainstorming: Mind Maps

What are "mind maps"?

A mind map is an organic plan that does not require strict structure to help you take everything you know about a topic and put it onto a visual diagram in front of you. The information you might jot down can be what you already know about the topic through the news, social media, conversations with friends and colleagues, and previous classes you have taken. Mind maps are especially helpful to narrow down or mold your topic into something more specific (ex: "restorative justice" to the "effectiveness of K-12 restorative justice programs in reducing racially disproportionate discipline").

Mind Maps can also help you think of useful keywords to type in the search bar when looking for articles on Google Scholar, library databases, etc. Keywords can be anything such as:

  • Organizations (ex: CDC, National Head Start Association)
  • Groups of people (ex: LGBTQ+ teens, infants, parents, high school dropout)
  • Key people (ex: Maria Montessori, Erik Erikson)
  • Locations (a specific region of the U.S.? Is it an international program or in the U.S?)
  • Dates (Any important dates that relate to your topic)
  • Specialized Keywords (Any terms that are mainly used in your subfield or topic, not common terms)

You can make a mind map on anything, like an online app (Word) or on a piece of paper, it doesn't have to look perfect!

What should you do if you are hitting a wall in the idea phase?

Once you exhaust all of the information that you currently hold about a topic, jumping out of your mind map and accessing background resources is your next step. But, what are those places? Where do you seek additional background information?



Check out to following popular databases to start your search and find full-text scholarly articles. Visit our Tips and Tutorials page for more help on navigating these sites, or contact us. 

Narrowing down a search might look a bit different depending on what database you are accessing, but they all serve to assist you in going from thousands of results to more relevant and less overwhelming search results pages. 


  • Boolean Operators
    • Are the simple words, "And", "Or", and "Not" to help you narrow or broaden your searches. 
    • Using an asterisk (*) at the end of a keyword, for example, "child" ensures that the databases search for variations such as "children", "childhood", and "child's". 
  • Source Types
    • Most databases will give you the option to select specific types of sources to display in your search results pages. Source types will vary depending on the database, such as :
      • eBooks Scholarly Journals
        Dissertations and Theses                        Newspapers
        Reports                                                  Encyclopedia and Reference Works
        Reviews                                        Trade Publications
  • Publication Dates
    • It is crucial to pay attention to the date that a work was published to ensure that your sources are up to date. There will be times where looking at older articles will be needed to capture the historical context of your topic but the rule of thumb is to stick to sources that have been published within the last five years of the current date. For example, a source on COVID-19 that was published in 2020 will be very different than a publication from 2024. 
  • Subjects
    • Each database will name their subject category a bit differently, but this filter will give you the opportunity to narrow down your search in a variety of ways depending on what keywords are used in the search bar. For example, let's say you are searching for articles on "socio-emotional development in children". Take a look at the different subjects that you can use to branch off and further explore your topic. 

(Right-click and "open image in new tab" to enlarge picture)

  • Location/Geography
    • One more filter to think about using in your literature searches is the "location" or "geography" function. This filter will allow you to narrow your results to studies that focus on a particular region of the world. Use this function if you are focusing your research assignment on particular policies, perspectives, etc., that might be different depending on where the study was conducted. 

Browse through the open access materials and journals below focusing on childhood education and child development. Do you have an open access journal you would like to see on this list? Email with any feedback or suggestions. 


You've found an interesting article... now what? It is not enough to have found a source in a scholarly database. It is now up to your investigation skills to investigate your found source for accuracy and relevancy.




Watch this video on how to use the SIFT method when searching for sources online

Standford History Education Group. (2020, January 16). Sort Fact from Fiction Online with Lateral Reading. [Video]. YouTube. 


What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of your references with an additional description (typically 4-5 sentences) that describes the value, application, and relevance of each source to your paper. These short annotations help you and your reader better understand how each of the selected references supports your own thesis statement or dissertation.

For more help, check out the Academic Success Center tools on their website! They offer various resources, including help with writing academic papers and creating annotated bibliographies

You can also explore the Purdue Online Writing Lab's website, which includes APA formatting and sample annotations. 

Zotero - Citation and Management Tool

Did you know there is a FREE online tool that helps you collect, manage, and cite all of your research? Zotero can assist you in creating in-text citations, annotated bibliographies, and more. Check out our Zotero page to learn about how to download and use this software on your devices.