Beyond Superficial Learning
The Steps to Freedom, Independence, Liberation, Truth


Story: Three Buddhist monks, all three of whom were blind, were taken to the zoo. When they got to the elephants, having been told how magnificent elephants were, they asked if they could feel one.

One monk felt the leg of the elephant and concluded that elephants are similar to tree trunks. The second monk felt the elephant's tail and concluded that elephants are like snakes. The third monk felt the elephant's side and concluded that elephants are much like the walls of buildings.

The moral of this story is that you do not KNOW a subject until you have enough information to understand the "big picture" and to be sure that your information is correct.

Looking up a subject in one source--even an encyclopedia or reference book--or looking up just a few source (like when your professor requires five sources for a term paper) really means that your view of the subject is almost certainly incomplete, incorrect, distorted, mistaken, or worse.

Bad information is worse than no information because it is misleading

Learning a subject more than superficially involves the following steps

  1. Finding the tools. Learning what ways of locating information on the subject exist. This will include bibliographic tools, like indexes and databases, as well as knowledge networks. This will usually require a librarian--even better if the librarian specializes in that subject area.

  2. Finding the information. Learning how much information is available on the subject, and where it is.

  3. Narrowing your topic, or subject of inquiry, dow to a small enough size that you can read most of what is available on it. It's better to be an expert on a small area than misinformed (ie., ignorant) on a big one.

  4. Finding a majority of the information sources on the subject and reading them.

  5. Establishing when you have found enough information. To determine this you will need to reach a knowledge of the following:

  6. What is YOUR interpretation of the subject--your conclusion? Use these tools:

  7. Correctly recording information sources. You will need:

  8. Keeping current with the field or subject once you know about it. You will need:

All of the above is covered in the course, Information Studies, INFO 1371, offered at Palo Alto College. Information is power. Empower yourself today and sign up for this critical course. It is in the core curriculum (pending Coordinating Board approval) and will make you a stronger student, a more successful person. For information, write Colby Glass.

Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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