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Competence 6: Managing information

“How are you managing the information you find?”

Having found all of this wonderful information, it's vital to make a record of what you have found, and to organise your findings. This will help you to manage the information effectively. There are a number of ways to do this, from making brief notes in your own words and keeping those in a computer file, to printing them out and keeping them in a physical file, to using reference management software such as Mendeley or Zotero, further details of which can be found in the 'Useful resources' section.

Whatever system you decide to use, you need to be consistent - particularly if your organisation has a specific system that you need to adhere to - and to be vigilant about making notes regularly.

Referencing

When you write a piece of work (for example a university assignment, a report for your employer, or an article for publication), it is good practice to provide details of the sources you have read or referred to and so it is helpful to keep the details of them as you go along. It's also important that you are consistent in the way you reference your work.

Referencing is a recognised way of referring to information sources read and referred to in writing an assignment, report or guideline. Consistency in referencing ensures you are always providing the correct amount of information, in a recognised format. In this way, your referencing method can be understood by anyone reading your work.

If you are not sure which details you need to include, you could find this out by familiarising yourself with the referencing or citation system used by the organisation you are writing for. There are universally recognised formats for displaying reference information, the most popular of which are the Harvard and the Vancouver systems.

Useful guides to the Harvard system and the Vancouver system have been compiled by Anglia Ruskin University and Imperial College London respectively, further details of which can be found in the 'Useful resources' section. Each of these referencing guides demonstrates how to display a wide variety of different types of references. However, some organisations prefer to use another referencing system or they may use Harvard or Vancouver differently, whilst some may even have their own in-house system. If you are in any doubt, check with your line manager or tutor. You should always follow the guidelines from the organisation that you are writing for. Whatever system you use, you need to be consistent.

New technologies

New technologies can help you to manage your information. For example, 'social bookmarking' services such as 'Delicious', 'digg.com', 'StumbleUpon', or 'reddit', allow you to save all your bookmarks online, share them with other people, and see what other people are bookmarking.

New technologies can also help you to stay up to date with professional information and current knowledge. For example, if you subscribe free to 'RSS feeds' (also known as newsfeeds) on your favourite websites, you will receive new content from those websites as soon as they are updated, which saves you the job of going to the sites and checking for it manually.

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Because there is no limit to the number of feeds that can be set up in one place, it means you don’t have to trawl around various websites checking for updates. This can save you a great deal of time. In order to receive RSS feeds you will need an RSS reader, which may be available within your Internet browser. Alternatively, there are a number of free RSS readers available on the Internet, including Google reader.

Once you have a reader, you can then subscribe to RSS feeds from websites you want to receive content from, and the information will be delivered automatically to your RSS reader. The RCN offers several RSS feeds that you can sign up to, further details of which can be found in the 'Useful resources' section.

Social networking

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Online social networking occurs via a range of websites that allows a community of people to interact via the worldwide web. There are several high profile social network sites that you may have already heard of, including 'MySpace', 'LinkedIn' and 'Bebo'. 'Facebook', however, is the most popular social networking site in the world, with more than 500 million members currently. Its network service allows you to keep in touch with friends, colleagues and anyone you want to share information with. It is possible to alter your privacy settings if you use a site such as 'Facebook', if you decide that you only want certain people to be able to see certain information - this reduces the chances that someone you don't know can have access your online photo albums, for example. You can follow the RCN on 'Facebook'. If you decide to ‘Like’ the RCN on 'Facebook' you will automatically receive news and updates from the RCN.

'Twitter' is an information network that allows you to keep up-to-date with whatever interests you. You can follow the RCN on 'Twitter' and receive news and updates ('tweets') from the RCN automatically.

You can also network with fellow RCN members using the RCN Discussion Zone - an online message board with discussions related to nursing and the RCN - including geographical communities and RCN forum online communities.

A Blog (an abbreviation of "weblog") is an online diary that everyone can read. It can contain text, photos and links to other sites, and you can promote it via the various social networking sites.

To find out how the RCN is using social media, visit RCN Social Networks, further details of which can be found in the 'Useful resources' section.

Confidentiality

Social networking provides a great way to stay up to date with information. However, there are important legal and professional issues to be aware of - including issues surrounding patient confidentiality - when using social networking sites. As mentioned in the section 'Competence 5: Using information inclusively, legally and ethically' there are copyright issues and confidentiality issues when using information. The RCN's 'Legal Advice on Using the Internet' is a valuable resource.

As soon as anything is online - including written work such as blogs and tweets, or photos on a 'Facebook' site - it's in the public domain. It's therefore important to be cautious about posting anything online, even if you think that only a few people will see it.

You may want to record any key actions that you want to implement in your daily practice, or any reflections related to your learning, in the the 'Taking action' section. You can type straight into the PDF documents, which can then be saved onto your computer and uploaded to your e-Portfolio, as evidence of your learning.