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The Playful Path to Information Literacy - Empowering ELL Students through Interactive Instruction: Go Fish: Understanding the Depth of Information

Hello and welcome to the guide that accompanies our presentation for CCLI!

How It Works

Go Fish: Understanding the Depth of Information

Learning Outcome: Students will explore information source types and determine their individual qualities and depth



Also known as the "Cycle of Information," the "Depth of Information" refers to the way information is produced and distributed and how that changes over time. It begins with easily accessible resources at the beginning/top (social media or news) and then progressively includes more complex and in-depth resources (magazines, books, scholarly articles, documentaries, and books). When students do research, they are encouraged to find complementary resources from several places. Every time something is published about a topic, regardless of where, it becomes part of the whole picture. When we look at this model, it provides a timeline of when things get published while also determining a hierarchy of their depth. 


Right at the Surface are usually things that are more readily available or easier to find and were just published, providing only a snapshot of the whole topic at hand. This is especially true if it is a newsworthy event. They are usually intended for a general audience.


Examples include:

  • Social media (X, Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook)
  • TV or Cable news
  • Newspapers (online and in print)
  • Radio and Podcasts

In the Middle of the Ocean is information that is published as time passes, usually weeks after an event takes place. These sources may have more authority or be behind a paywall. This information will usually be more detailed, are longer in length, provide more analysis, may contain bias, and may go beyond just a general audience.


Examples include:

  • Magazine articles
  • Government press releases
  • Speeches
  • Reports

In the Deepest Parts of the Ocean is information that is published six months to a year or longer after an event/topic takes place. This information is typically difficult to read due to comprehensive analysis that includes data, statistics, jargon, and is more difficult to find. It is also usually peer-reviewed and edited by professionals or experts, living behind a paywall in an online database or in print.


Examples include:

  • Journal articles
  • ebooks/Books
  • Documentaries
  • Podcasts

The Activity

tl;dr – Doing research about a topic is just like fishing in the sea/the ocean.


The journey from easy to find information (Tweets, Online, News, Magazines) to more authoritative information (Scholarly Journals and Books) can be frustrating and takes time and patience. Each piece of information is just a snapshot of a topic, but all of it together makes up the bigger picture in the scholarly conversation


Research Angler Fishing analogy: You can scoop across surface of the water with your net and get lots of "stuff," but if you cast your fishing pole deeper into the water, you will get different, bigger fish. Or, you could scuba dive along the bottom of the water, put on all the heavy and expensive equipment, and get quality fish that you can eat. You get the more in-depth conversation as you go deeper.  

In this activity, students will work in groups and place each fish picture where they think it belongs in the “sea of information.” Groups will receive six or seven laminated pictures of fish with a source type on them about a consistent topic (either Vaping or Sleep). The fix will be placed on whiteboards using sticky tack or magnets. It can also be duplicated in a digital format.


Students must be able to determine the following about each fish: 

  • The information source or where it comes from  
  • The type (ex. Article, tweet, book, etc.) 
  • The level of authority 
  • Is it easy or difficult to understand? 
  • Is there a paywall to access this information?

Students will get five to seven minutes, keeping in mind some groups may take longer than others. Afterward, the librarian leads a discussion and asks students to share aloud. 

Files for Reuse

The Depth of Information Image

The image below is uploaded to the class learning management system (LMS).

Photos in Action

an image of undergraduate students placing fish on a whiteboard as an information literacy actitivty

One group working with their fish.

an image the final output of an information literacy activity

The results from one of the groups.

the setup of an information literacy activity where students will use pictures of fish

This is the basic setup on one of the whiteboards with prop fish on the side.

an image of one of the group's final work

The final work from one of the groups.

Terms of Reuse

Creative Commons CC BY SA License Logo 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. We encourage reuse of any materials on this guide.