The Big 6

When I went to Syracuse University to earn my M.L.S., it was my privilege to learn about a research method called The Big6.  Creators of this research method, Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz, were still associated with SU so I was able to learn the method under their tutelage.  The Big6, used worldwide, teaches individuals to use six simple steps whenever they are faced with any type of information problem.

Doing research well is not something that comes intuitively, and it is something that needs to be practiced again and again before the process becomes a smooth one.  Here in the library, I do my best to help make this process easier for our students, and one of the ways that I do that is to work with them and teach them the Big6 method for information problem solving.

At first, research comes to mind when a person says, information problem.  However, the Big6 can be used in many areas of everyday life.  When you need to decide which car is the best to buy, you need information, right?  When your student needs to choose just the right dress for the prom, she needs to gather information to make a good choice.  Even deciding which movie to go to see on Saturday night requires information.  If you are interested in learning more about the Big6, check out the simple steps below.

Step 1: Task Definition:
• What is your task or your job?
• What information do you need to answer?
• What do you already know?

Step 2: Information Seeking Strategies:
• Make a list of all of the possible sources of information
• Could you use a book? an encyclopedia? the Internet?
• Would a friend be able to give you guidance?
• Could you take a trip to see an expert?
• Now prioritize this list

Step 3: Location and Access:
• Locate the information that you decided would be best in step 2
• Find the information within the source
• Could you use an index? a table of contents? the card catalog?

Step 4: Use of Information:
• Now that you have the information in front of you, you have to use it
• You might read, view, or listen to the source
• You need to record what you have learned by taking notes or highlighting

Step 5: Synthesis:
• After checking back over your Task Definition to be certain that you have included everything you need to include, you will put together the information in a way that makes sense and then you will present it
• You might write a report, or make an oral presentation, or create a video, or buy that beautiful prom dress that you have your mind set on

Step 6: Evaluation:
• In order to get better at using information, it is important to do some self-evaluation
• Did you use your time wisely?
• Did you get everything that you need while seeking out the information?
• Did your mother love the gift that you bought for her?
• Did the prom dress fit perfectly?
• If you had to answer no to any of these things, what did you learn?
• What could you do better the next time you are faced with a similar information problem?
• What did you do really well this time that is worth repeating the next time you have a similar problem?


And that is the Big6 in a nutshell.  If you would like to learn even more, you could visit the official Big6 web site at

Ann Gray, Library Media Specialist