2 Acquisition of Information for a Thesis

Through the process of preparing a bachelor’s or master’s thesis, students will learn to analyse problems, develop solutions to them, and to keep up with the changes taking place in society. These skills are necessary in working life: an expert who has information literacy competencies is able to collect, locate, evaluate, and use professional information efficiently and effectively.

It is of utmost importance to define the goal of the thesis as precisely as possible. As long as the goal remains indefinite, the collection of data will be rough. If one is able to transform a goal into a question, then he/she already has a rather clear idea of the purpose for which he/she needs the information. Associative and cognitive maps and preliminary tables of contents are good means to help piece together and refine the topic. More extensive and rigorous data collection should start only after the central concepts (phenomena) have been defined and their significance to the goal of one’s work understood. Understanding the meaning of the central concepts of one’s research also helps him/her choose accurate keywords when searching for information in databases and networks. Alternative keywords can be found with the help of keyword indices. For example, if a project deals with product liability and similar phenomena, useful alternative keywords could be consumer protection, quality control, product development, product safety, and liability insurance. There are links, for example, to the online version of the Finnish Ontology Library Service ONKI, as well as to field-specific databases and thesauri on JAMK Library’s Nelli Portal.

The acquisition of information is a creative process in which the sources already identified have an impact on both the specification of the goal and the discovery of new, enlightening viewpoints and sources of information. There are various types of information sources at one’s disposal in different formats: written and oral, electronic, and printed. It is important to use a variety of sources, and to do so fluidly and in a manner appropriate for a particular assignment. The most up-to-date information is usually found in periodicals such as magazines and newspapers, and through information networks. The information presented in books often represents a very restricted view or theme. Experts representing different fields are good sources of information, especially on subjects less studied, while definitions of concepts can be found in field-specific reference books.

All information collected should be critically evaluated before it is integrated into the knowledge base of the work and put into practice. Furthermore, one must remember to assess the reliability and usefulness of each source of information in relation to the assignment and the objectives in question. All the sources referred to in the report have to be properly cited for the sake of the reader, who should be able to look up the source information in order to understand it in its native context. Students’ information retrieval and writing skills can be developed in various courses offered by JAMK University of Applied Sciences.