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The Information Literacy Cycle



In this lesson, we will discuss the Big6 model, a set of steps that summarizes the processes involved in information literacy. Developed by Michael Eisenberg and David Berkowitz in 2000, this pioneering model remains one of the simplest and easiest to understand. As a lifelong, independent learner, you can follow this model every time you engage with information.

Task Definition

The first step in the Information Literacy Cycle is determining the information that you need. In the previous activity, this is the first thing that you did: based on the given question, you identified the kind of information that you are looking for. In most cases, this is easy to do. However, when it comes to more complicated research, defining your information needs might be difficult. Here are some guide questions that can help you:

  • What is the question that I need to answer?
  • What information do I need?
  • What kind of information does the task require?
  •  What problem do I need to solve?

Among the criticisms about the Big6 model of the Information Literacy Cycle is that it is too problem-specific: it implies that the cycle only begins when a problem or question is raised. However, as a lifelong, independent learner, you must look beyond this and approach the model in such a way that it helps you recognize that there is always a need to widen one’s horizons through new information, although this new information is not something that you need yet.

Information Seeking Strategies

The second step in the Information Literacy Cycle is to look for the information that you need. In this step, you must list down all possible sources for your specific topic. This can help you feel less overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available on the Internet or in libraries, for example. After coming up with a list of all possible sources, you must narrow your list down by selecting the best sources for your topic. This would all depend on the information  problem that  you  have  identified in the first stage. To help you look for sources, here are some guide questions:

  • Which sources will provide reliable information?
  • Which sources can provide information that are specific to my topic?
  • Which sources can provide comprehensive or in-depth information about mytopic?

Although we now live in the Information Age and information can easily be accessed via the Internet, keep in mind that the Internet is not the only possible source of information. Books,  encyclopedias,  and  magazines are still as useful. You can also consider interviews as a valid source of information. Media are everywhere, and they must all be considered as viable sources of information.

Location and Access

After identifying your possible sources, proceed to locating these sources and gathering the information that you need from them. Because there are many sources available for any topic, you must adopt a  method or strategy which can help you easily locate the information that you need. You can  start  by  focusing on keywords, keyword phrases, and synonyms that are specific to your topic. One of the skills that are needed for this step is knowing how to use the table of contents, index, or references  list  to  look  for  information  that  is helpful for the topic. To  help you locate and access  the information that you need, here are some guide questions:

  • What keywords, keyword phrases, or synonyms would lead me to useful information about my topic?
  • What tools can I use to quickly locate the information that I need?
  • How can I keep track of all the information that I gather?
  • Depending on the type of source, what search strategy can I use?

Use of Information

Now that you have found all the sources that you need, you can begin narrowing down the information that you have gathered. Initially, it might seem that the sources you gathered are all useful for  your  topic, but once you go through them one by one, you would notice that some of them are not really helpful, or that not all of the available information are relevant to your research. You must then weed out all the information that you do not need and gather the relevant, useful, or essential ones. In order to successfully carry this task out, you must thoroughly study each source first. This step takes a lot of time, especially if you have to identify the information that you need and do not need. You must then be focused and critical in evaluating the information that you encounter. Here are some guide questions that can help you:

  • How does the source present the information? What is its outline or structure?
  • What is the thesis statement of the source? What is its conclusion?
  • What information contributes to my topic? What information does not?
  • Is this information necessary to my study?
  • What is the main idea presented by the source?
  • Does this information answer the question presented by my research topic?

Aside from weeding out information, you must also develop ways of marking and recording the information that you need. You can either highlight the information that you need or use index cards to collect the quotes that you think are useful for your topic. Come up  with  creative and personalized ways of  listing down the information that you need,  and remember that this information would eventually have to be cited or quoted in your research.


The second to the last step in the Big6 model is Synthesis, wherein you must decide how to organize and present the information that you have gathered. Your topic outline will depend on the format that you choose: are you going to  write a research paper, create a PowerPoint presentation, or create a video essay? Once you have chosen your format,  it  will be easier to organize the information that you have. As with any presentation, you must focus on the message that you are trying to convey and identify your intended audience. Both can influence how you come up with a presentation or how you choose to arrange information. Below are some guidelines that you can follow in conducting this step:

  • Consider your audience.
  • Have a thesis statement or main idea.
  • Make sure that you have thoroughly researched your topic.
  • Create a simple but coherent outline which would support your thesis statement.
  • Organize information according to the format of delivery that you chose.


In  this final step, you must  evaluate all  the steps that you undertook  and focus on those which you can improve or, if you tried new tools or methods, keep. As an information literate individual, you must always reflect on how you process, gather, and share information. Here are some guide questions to help you conduct this last step:

  • Was I able to solve the problem that I initially identified?
  • Was I able to support my arguments?
  • Are all my sources credible and reliable?
  • Was I efficient in gathering information?
  • Did I thoroughly understand all the information that I organized and shared?
  • Did I use my sources ethically?
  • Was I able to relay my message clearly and concisely?
  • Did I get my message across to my audience?
  • Did I organize the information effectively?

Other than using these questions to evaluate your own work, you  can  also apply them when looking at presentations that are effective and demonstrate a thorough understanding and application of information literacy. Investigative pieces, critical essays, or academic essays are great examples of works that you can study in order to improve.

The following chart shows how Eisenberg and Berkowitz further divide the six steps into twelve:

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