Top Tips for Turning Information into Insights #IL2011

Top Tips for Turning Information into Insights

Marcy Phelps: blogs and has monthly newsletter

Sarah Bonato (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health): Uses Google to find “grey literature” (which she defines as anything to give a client that would be meaningful that’s not from a book or journal)

Google’s personalization and localization influences results too much (book: The Filter Bubble)

Reaffirming what they think you want to know

Example: recommended sodium intake

Can search Google Canada, Google UK, Google US Govt search (phased out, but use -pubmed), etc.

British/American spellings, terminology

Select or add file types (sometimes exclud PDF or PPT)

Select year range

Select reading level

Use ~ to find similar terms

Melanie Browne (Maple Leaf Foods): Combination of the content (type, subject, language), reliability of the source, expertise of the provider,
specialization of the source, depth and thoroughness, exclusiveness

Had to track down “year of the pie.” Expensive research reports were touting the idea. The company (and the industry generally) were ready to spend a lot of money to take advantage of this alleged trend. The librarians tracked it down to someone’s tweet speculating that it might be the year of the pie (after the year of the cupcake).

Librarians help find and evaluate the research, distill the results to improve decision making.

Visualizing information. Reach another level of comprehension.

Trend monitoring

Detailed reports on food service trends: reports, blogs, twitter, etc.

Executive summary

Pie charts.

A sentence at the bottom of each page explaining “why does this matter to us?”

  • Losing personalized searching
  • Not limited to one source of info
  • Also search the grey lit
  • Expert validation

Marcy Phelps (consultant and researcher): Presentation on her web site

Info experts

Search results lead to insights

Answer “So what?”

Assure info will be used. More is not necessarily better!

Become an info analyst

Listen and learn: ramp up ref interview, informational interviews, ask how will the info be used?

Malcolm Gladwell: There is a simple way to present info that will make it irresistalble (The Tipping Point)

Always includ TOC, exec summary (one page, bulleted, very concise), cover letter (distills everything: what tried to do, where she went, and what the issues were)

Quick summaries of articles: The higher up the food chain, the shorter the attention span.

Word clouds (e.g., from telephone interviews): Wordle.

Add meaning to numbers: create a chart or graph, using chart wizard in Excel

Build a “dashboard”: a few key graphs at the very beginning, after exec summary.

Include images: image search at, creative commons images on Flickr and Google Images, istock

Use a matrix for comparisons

Try a timeline

Updates: the gift that keeps on giving

  • RSS
  • e-mail alerts
  • Factiva widget builder

Consider new formats:

  • execs love PPT
  • number crunchers love Excel
  • phone
  • marketing and advertising people like in person

Value-added toolkit to make easy:

  • templates in Word, PPT
  • Word styles
  • chart gallery
  • everything you deliver should be branded (photo and contact info, for example)

Create research products for frequent requests, e.g.

  • Issues tracker
  • Know before you go

Blogs on researchers adding value:
Coming: (Mary Ellen Bates)

Twice the amount of time on analysis vs. research


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