thing 8: Research as Inquiry

Recommended Readings, Resources, and Examples

Badia, G. (2016). Question formation: A teachable art. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 23(2), 210-216.

Fuchs, B. and Sharp, D. (2015). From Pints to Barrels: Helping Topic-Focused Students See the Bigger Picture.  LOEX Annual Conference.

Choose Your Own Adventure Activity

Select one of the following activities to complete:

  1. Locate an example of an article or lesson plan that describes an approach to teaching using the frame Research as Inquiry. In a comment, post a link to the article or lesson plan (or a citation if paywalled) along with a short summary of what you read. How could you adapt or build upon this approach at your own institution?
  2. Drawing inspiration from one of the recommended readings, draft your own lesson plan related to the frame Research as Inquiry. Upload your lesson plan to Project CORA and/or the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox, and post a link to it here.


  1. The lesson I used for Thing 8 was, Topic Generation and Teaching as Inquiry by Katie and Benjamin Hassan. I especially like this topic because it critiques something I currently do in my classes, which is to tell students to pick a topic that they are passionate about or that they want to learn more about. This is too simple, and easy for students to dismiss. It is difficult for students to get personal or deep about their topics, if there isn’t time for their topics to develop. In their lesson the students workshop their topics first in small groups twice, complicating their original topics, and then as a bigger group. This gives the opportunity for multiple people to give feedback.

    I think it might be difficult to do this in a oneshot lesson due to possible reluctance and sheer lack of time. However this could definitely be adapted in a for credit course. Giving students actual passion about research.

    Hassan, Katie and Benjamin Hassan. ‘“Topic Generation and Teaching as Inquiry.” Framing Information Literacy: Teaching Grounded in Theory, Pedagogy and Practice. edited by Mary K. Oberlies and Janna Mattson. ARCL, 2018, pp. 47 – 66.


  2. A big part of Research as Inquiry is developing the appropriate keywords to perform research on your given topic. Last year at ALA Annual Convention, I attended a session about gaming as a tool for teaching information literacy. The librarians hosting the session, created a card game called, “Keywords to Mastery Game: An active learning approach to discover research topics.”

    In this game, there are two decks of cards, one has sentences with blanks regarding research assignments (Assignment Cards) and the other has keywords (keyword cards). An Assignment Card is displayed and everyone in the group hands a keyword card to the dealer and then the dealer decides which keyword is most appropriate for the assignment. The game play is the same premise as the card game, Apples to Apples. Players want to win as many rounds as possible.

    Example Assignment Cards:

    “This week I’m discussing factors influencing school success. I can use ______ &_____ to find an article.”


    “I am writing a paper on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Searching for _____will help me find resources &narrow my topic.”

    I would like to be able to use this game with my students. It relates to knowledge practice, “Organize information in meaningful ways.” I also already have all the materials and instructions since I attended the session at ALA. I would like to do this activity at the beginning of the semester with my General Education Capstone course so they can get comfortable choosing appropriate keywords for their topics.


  3. Using the ideas presented in Jennifer Hasse’s Drawing the Research Process, I am ready to modify an introduction to research class I plan to teach later this week. Setting up the class session by asking leading questions related to taking a trip (Where are you going? Who is going with you? What supplies do you need?) is a good, practical way to start and something most can relate to. Switching from planning an event to writing a successful research paper, they now need to answer the questions: What do I know? What do I need to know? How am I going to find out? This gives a great opening to setting up a flow chart either in linear or circular fashion. The video clip gives an explanation of why research is inquiry, revising and moving but not always in a linear fashion. At this point an introduction to library resources can be given with the next assignment of using a LibWizard tutorial and assessment to walk them through a process of becoming familiar with the library webpage and its contents along with setting up some accounts.

    When I see this class only a few days later they are ready to explore a topic, knowing it will be a process of inquiry and that is how it is supposed to happen, with revisions and adaptations. This already seems like a more practical approach to teaching the research process as more of a conversation and less of a task.


  4. Like Lisa Hoover I discovered the video It’s All About the Questions ( from the Inform Your Thinking Series. I like its guidance in choosing a research question (“not answered with a simple yes or no”), the tough reminder that “research takes time,” reassurance that “it’s OK to restart or rewind your research,” and the encouragement to “be open to new ideas and debate.”

    I can visualize beginning a class with this video (or asking students to watch it before class) and then move into the lesson plan “The Research Discussion” (from the book Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts*), in which the class tries to answer a question with just the knowledge they have (e.g. in what ways does lack of sleep affect student performance?). This can build confidence and also follows the advice in the video to talk to friends and professors about your question. Then the class tries again to answer the question
    by seeking information using Google and/or library tools. My hope is that this process would help them “equate the research they do in their course work to the question-and-answer processes they use in their everyday lives” (p.62) and give them a sense that the research process is iterative.

    * Bravender, Patricia, Hazel McClure, and Gayle Schaub, eds. Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts: Lesson Plans for Librarians. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2015.


  5. I found this lesson plan in Project Cora: It’s particularly helpful to me because I work with first year students in a social justice based writing composition class. This resource provides a wealth of suggestions for helping students to be “exploratory” in the research process. I don’t have time with my students to work through all the options they offer, but a few that stand out are: concept mapping a topic,asking “who, what, where, how” questions, and using background reading to guide your research exploration. Concept mapping in particular is a skill I’m interested in and one that I model for students in my courses. The examples that they provide are clear and show the movement from a broad topic to more narrow aspects of the topic. What I am most excited about is their section E – social justice and social structures. I’m inspired to work these types of questions into my classroom instruction on the research process. Section H, asking students to consider how their own social identities might lead to assumptions or conclusions on their topic is also very valuable.


  6. In some courses faculty promote the use of scholarly articles even when a topic calls for other types of information. Further, students need background information to develop a question. Those points drew me to

    Finding Local Government Information from the ACRL Framework Sandbox

    Government information would be useful for many of their projects, so this would be a good exercise to give the students–and me–practice.

    My faculty allow some non-scholarly resources, so buy-in should be no problem. When the students do go to the scholarly articles, they can make more informed choices.

    The lesson leaves room for customization. I’d probably include some brainstorming à la Badia (2016).


  7. I looked at this lesson:’s-all-about-questions.
    This was actually the second in this “inform your thinking” series of videos, and I want to go back and watch the rest. This one discussed formulating a research question, and more importantly revisiting and rethinking that research question as you go. I really like that it discussed “rewinding” your research question if you find you need to go in a different direction, as this is something I want to really stress to my students. I’ve been using the phrase “research isn’t linear” a lot, and I think this video really reinforces this idea. The video also touched on the idea that research questions should not be too broad, and should be focused on a specific aspect of the broader issue. It also hinted as the idea of research and scholarship as a conversation, which would reinforce a lesson on this issue if students had already seen it, and I thought that was great (and reinforces the idea that many of the frameworks are related and overlap).

    As I said, this is an area I am hoping to start stressing to students more often. I have a workshop planned for this fall semester on getting started on your research project, and I hope to use the ideas from both the recommended reading in this “thing” and the ideas in this video to help me craft my own lesson plan. I definitely want to spend a lot of discussion on formulating a strong research question, and I also want to get at the idea of “rewinding” your research or allowing your research to go in a non-linear path. I may even use this video!


  8. I’m circling back to this group of teaching ideas for the frames: for Thing 8 and focusing on a small portion of it: brainstorming. Particularly in one-on-one settings, brainstorming is an extraordinarily useful tool for developing topics and moving those topics from broad to narrow and scopable.

    When I’ve talked with our faculty and asked them to rank the frames, this frame falls in the middle in terms of importance. From my vantage point and previous experience, “Research as Inquiry” is a great jumping-off point for working directly with a class on a capstone project, thesis paper, etc. When you have enough time to really embed into a class for an entire semester and make frequent visits to the class or have a way of insuring that the students of the class are going to schedule one-on-one visits with you, then this particular frame comes into focus and you can start drilling down into it.

    Example: A history professor teaching a senior capstone project course asked me to be the embedded librarian for the class for the duration of the semester. My initial visit to the class was to give the students an introduction to the libguide I had built specifically for their course; it focused on library materials and other primary source materials found elsewhere that would be of assistance to them as they chose their topics and began their research. Once the initial visit was over, each student was responsible for scheduling a series of appointments with me – the first visit was to discuss potential topics, the second visit was to isolate the project topic, the third visit was to identify and approve sources (potentially order them through ILL if necessary), the fourth through eighth visits were outline-designing, draft-reading, proofing, citation-building, etc. Our students visited me weekly for an entire semester (it was a small class, so it was possible). The students were given pre- and post-assessments to evaluate knowledge and understanding of topic selection, source identification, and even plans for advanced education.

    As we worked through our appointments, the students wrestled with their topics and really began to grasp how topics move from broad to narrow. They identified sources that surprised them as to their availability, and they made connections across their research that showed up in their papers. This venture was the first such collaboration this specific history professor and I attempted, but at the end of the semester, both of us were pleased with the success of it. Were all of the projects graded A+? No, but more project illustrated that the student had made enormous strides in crossing this threshold of “research as inquiry.”

    I haven’t written this up as a lesson plan, but it is a plan that I would like to use again.


  9. The first recommended article was paywalled but I did look at the Loex document. The idea of research as inquiry is important in the health sciences. I try to encourage students, when they have a choice, to pick a topic that they are personally invested in, perhaps because they have a friend or family member facing a health issue. They can begin by doing a poster or presentation and pursue their chosen line of inquiry in more and more complex ways as they gain knowledge, develop their research skills, and become acquainted in a professional community. I Googled “research as inquiry nursing” and came up with several papers I had noticed before, but never taken a close look at. I chose one by Gloria Wilson and Katelyn Angell of Long Island University, “Mapping the Association of College and Research Libraries information literacy framework and nursing professional standards onto an assessment rubric.” This article is open-access at In this article, the authors assert that “academic health sciences librarians do not tend to utilize established IL frameworks or apply them in planning their IL instruction as much as general academic librarians do.” To help address this issue, they selected some of the ANA standards (I think they are referring to the ANA Scope and Standards of Practice, 3rd edition) and map them to the ACRL Framework competencies. Then they created an assessment rubric for nursing student papers and had two librarians indepedently score the papers for attainment of the six ACRL framework competencies. Agreement between the two librarians was only fair to poor.The authors concluded that the idea holds promise, but further calibration of the rubric is needed before it can be put to practical use in the field.


  10. I liked this tutorial created by Wichita State University.

    I feel like one of the blessings about being in a health sciences related university is the existence of the PICO acronym to help students develop clinical questions. It helps students break down a situation presented to them by making them recognize what knowledge gap are they trying to fill and what information in a certain case is necessary vs. extraneous. I’ve tried to think if there was a way to do it with social sciences classes as well.

    In class, I liked to play with what happens when you include different parts of the PICO scenario into a search. What types of results do they get? What questions are answered? Did they include the right data?

    PICO is also helpful when they study systematic reviews since most systematic reviews in the health sciences begin with a PICO question. Making them identify the PICO in systematic reviews allows them to see how the information we teach is put into practice in the “real world.”


  11. Students tend to come to the Research Desk and state they need x number of sources for their paper. When we find the number needed, they say, “Thanks; that’s enough.” I stress that once they read the sources, they may need additional sources because one or two of the articles/books/documents selected may not meet their needs.

    I found this lesson in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox: “Picking Your Topic IS Research,” contributed by Jesse Lopez, Librarian at NC State University:

    This brief video focuses on the research process and the necessity of leaving enough time to rethink the topic and to conduct further research if the initial topic and/or search results either do not provide enough information or provide too many results. The video illustrates the iterative nature of research and that picking the topic is not only a step in the writing process, but an element of research as well.


  12. Keeping in mind the recommended readings, and the Research as Inquiry poster from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Andersen Library, I initially selected Inform Your Thinking Library Tutorials: It’s All About the Questions ( from the ACRL Sandbox. It is part of a series of videos, from Oklahoma State University, that keep appearing in my search results, most likely because they have separated each framework into its own unit, and they are applicable to the community college level.


    But then I researched further and plan to use Crime Scene Investigation as an Analogy for Scholarly Inquiry (, also from the ACRL Sandbox. “This lesson plan from Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts, edited by Patricia Bravender, Hazel McClure, and Gayle Schaub and contributed by Robert Farrell, provides students with a practical analogy for scholarly inquiry using an example they are all familiar with, crime scene investigation.”

    This lesson plan fits well with the Research as Inquiry frame, and I will try it out as is. Many students are well aware of the CSI series and understand the process that goes into solving cases. I would divide students into groups, with those knowledgeable of CSI and/or crime scene investigation being grouped with those less familiar with the series.

    I would stress that as they acquire new knowledge during the research process that the focus of their questions will change based on this new knowledge. I would also mention that they shouldn’t get “stuck” on one track, but be open to new possibilities.


  13. I think this frame is one of the most important frames, particularly in light of the “fake news” terms being splashed around by various constituencies.
    I browsed the slides, and this quote from Practices that Provide Effective Academic Challenge for First year Students” resonated with me: “The process of critically examining different perspectives meant students began viewing knowledge as less certain or absolute.”
    I think this is an important aspect of lifelong learning…challenging yourself, your bias, and thinking critically (or at least being open to it.)
    I looked at 2 different lesson plans: Crime Scene Investigation as an Analogy for Scholarly Inquiry ( and the 2015 CARLI Instruction Showcase presentation by Chelsea Van Riper (
    Each of these approaches seemed practical for using in a classroom setting by either librarians or by a classroom instructor. The Crime Scene Investigation was quite clever and directly relates research to “solving” a crime (I use somewhat of this analogy myself–I talk about gathering evidence and making your case with the students.)


    • Part 2: In the CARLI example, the author uses a prescribed method to help students get to a good research question, focusing on the Why? and How? questions (the example she uses is the protests in Ferguson). They do peer work, go through a libguide in class, and walk through creating a good research question. Using the Who, What, Where, When, Why, How questions on the topic help the students to see the Research as Inquiry frame and how it helps students to hone their research into questions that are more developed.
      I like both of these approaches–I could use both pretty much as is in the right setting. I am more drawn to the crime scene analogy lesson plan. I think to adapt it I would talk through the analogy, and then decide on a research question/topic (such as the Ferguson riots one) that we would work through as a class with maybe pauses for student participation. Then I would leave enough time for them to work on their own research topics if that was needed.


  14. I like an activity mentioned in “Where Visual and Information Literacies Meet: Redesigning Research Skills Teaching and Assessment for Large Art History Survey Courses” (

    An image is shown on the screen and students ask questions about it! So simple yet something I never thought of until I read the article. The authors talk about using a web app, Lina, to have students ask questions and post them for others to see in real time. This or just writing them on the board would work. I haven’t tried this myself yet but I look forward to doing so. Students often don’t realize this is an integral part to their research process!


    • I have tried to use this idea:

      in a revised format about twice this semester with limited success. It was an attempt to have the students explore, learn, and explain different parts of the databases their professors wanted to cover. What I would like to try next time is a version of the lesson plan the article shared with creating Research Questions. Many of our instruction sessions are scheduled when students are trying to refine or decide on their individual research questions. I want to see if I can have the students help each other craft good research questions. Since the professor will want the students to work on the assignment at hand, using predefined keywords (as described in the first reading) may not be a welcome suggestion for an activity. There are a few professors I can work with who may be open to the idea.

      The passing would have 5 passes, or a combination that makes sense based on the assignment of the professor. Who, What, When, Where, and Why, as well as a section to suggest and add different keywords or themes to explore. One factor that I need to examine is if there are 18 individual research questions, or 4-5 group projects. This will impact how the assignment can be organized.



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