Information essentials

Aims and objectives

This module will:

  • introduce you to different kinds of information and where to find them
  • give advice on search strategies
  • help you to evaluate information.

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • develop a search strategy to find the best information for your needs
  • find different kinds of information using different tools
  • evaluate information you find.

1. What is information?

Information is all around us, but what does the word actually mean?

Historically, there have been lots of different definitions of information. The Oxford English Dictionary defines information as 'the imparting of knowledge in general', which is fine, but doesn't actually tell us what information is. 

Perhaps the easiest way to think about information is as part of a hierarchy.

At the bottom of the hierarchy is data. Data is measurements, statistics and facts that when grouped together we can analyse to get meaning. To learn more about data and how to use it, see our Working with data module

Information is the meaning that we get from this data. So for example, if we had a list of the number of ibises on campus from 2008 to 2018, our data would be a list of numbers. If we analyse that data, we can draw meaning out of it to create information. In this example, we could find out whether the number of ibises was the same, or if it had got larger or smaller. 

Knowledge is synthesised information. This means that it is personal to us - our brains store information and use it to make judgements about the world. For example, if we know that the number of ibises has increased on campus, we might be less likely to eat our lunch outside in case an ibis steals our sandwich.

When we write assignments, we use lots of different types of information to inform our work. This module will help you to identify the different types of information you might use, show you how to find information, and give you a framework for working out whether your information is good or bad.

This module will take about 30 minutes to complete.