thing 9: Scholarship as Conversation

Recommended Readings, Resources, and Examples

Carroll, A. J., & Dasler, R. (2015). “Scholarship is a Conversation”: Discourse, Attribution, and Twitter’s Role in Information Literacy Instruction.

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 Scholarship is a Conversation. 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 Scholarship is a Conversation. Upload your lesson plan to Project CORA and/or the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox, and post a link to it here.


  1. In their lesson, “Strategic Topic Development: An Active, Flipped Lesson for First-Year Students”, Tiffany Davis describes a process in which while in groups students examine a reference article such as a encyclopedia entry on a general topic. Students must identify narrower and broader terms within the article, and as a class come together to create a mind map to pick create research questions. Then the students take a worksheet home to create their own topics. I really liked this approach, I often teach first year classes and students have the ability to pick their own topics can be abstract for them, but this helps by first being in small groups and as a class doing so and then individually. Instead of jumping right into students picking their own topics. This helps the anxiety of having too much freedom and showing students that if invested can be a fun and insightful process. I appreciate that this framework doesn’t see students as empty vessels ready to be taught information literacy or how to search, instead they are active participants in the search process.

    Davis, Tiffany. “Strategic Topic Development: An Active, Flipped Lesson for First-Year Students”, Framing Information LIteracy: Searching as Strategic Exploration, edited by Mary K. Oberlies and Janna Mattson. ACRL, 2018, 267-275.


  2. Thing 9: Scholarship as conversation

    Research as a conversation and a process that students encounter on a daily basis is something I try to emphasize during instruction. While it might be considered “academic or scholarly research.” I encourage students to look critically at their daily practices, such as reading/watching reviews before they buy something, searching for closing and opening times to a gym as examples. However what I struggle with is them seeing themselves as active participants in the academic aspect of research. Allison Carr and Yvonne Nalani Meulemans point out the importance of students seeing themselves as scholars and not solely recipients of information in their lesson, “Stranger in a Strange Land: Student-Scholar Identity as a Foundation for College-Level Research.” One of their learning outcomes is after the lessons, “students will demonstrate the dispositions and habits of mind of a student-scholar” This allows for students to see themselves as active participants and empowers students in the process as well. Directly asking students what the difference between a student and a student scholar is? And which they would rather be can help with my dilemma.

    Carr, Allison and Yvonne Nalani Meulemans. “Stranger in a Strange Land: Student-Scholar Identity as a Foundation for College-Level Research.” Framing Information Literacy Scholarship as Conversation, edited by Mary K. Oberlies and Janna Mattson. ACRL, 2018, 467-477.


  3. As a longtime member of the Academic Integrity Committee at Foothill College, I appreciate Carroll & Dasler’s ideas for teaching attribution and scholarly conversation in a relevant, authentic framework that improves on “traditional compliance-based instruction.” At Foothill we also try to take a positive rather than punitive approach to cheating and plagiarism on campus. While there are consequences for bad behavior, our honor code ( talks less about punishment and more about our shared responsibility for academic honesty with a reminder that “failures of academic integrity are not victimless.” I would much rather students cite their sources properly in order “to give credit to the original author and/or strengthen an argument’s cogency” rather than to avoid getting an F on a paper, and after studying the example of @prodigalsam on Twitter, most of Carroll & Dasler’s students seemed to be on that track.

    Picking up on the idea that social media can be a useful tool in conveying the concept of scholarship as conversation, I’d like to try an exercise from Teaching Information Literacy Reframed* called “Informal Conversations” that asks students to study how topics on a blog develop and how a blog is a conversation. Before class the instructor chooses several controversial topics and finds two blogs with different points of view on each topic; in class students choose from the list of topics, read the archives from each blog on that topic, and answer several questions, basic ones about the blog’s purpose, scope, author and his/her credentials and then more pointed ones about whether the author provides evidence or cites other writers. The idea is basic and could be used in a variety of disciplines, and it might be interesting to pair it with one of the videos suggested by Jodi Devine and jwarren.

    * Burkhardt, Joanna M. Teaching Information Literacy Reframed : 50+ Framework-Based Exercises for Creating Information-Literate Learners. ALA Neal-Schuman, 2016. EBSCOhost eBook Academic Collection.

    (Sorry, I first posted this as a reply to Heather instead of a comment …)


  4. One part of Scholarship as Conversation is being able to determine if a source is reliable and why. Northeastern Illinios University created a Evaluating Sources Quiz ( to fulfill the knowledge practice that states, “Critically evaluate contributions made by others in participatory information environments.”

    The quiz is based on California State University Chico’s CRAAP test for evaluating resources. It uses the acronym CRAAP (Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) to help students remember the criteria needed to assess a source’s validity. NIU decided to take this test and assign points to it. For example students will be asked, “Is the source relevant to my research?” Then students may choose from YES, NO, or MAYBE. At the end the students add or subtract points to their total to determine if it is a reliable resource.

    We already do a few things at my university that are similar. First, in our GE Capstone class we have a CRAAP tutorial and quiz they must complete. Furthermore, in our First Year Seminar class we do an activity with the students in which they must determine if a source is popular or peer-reviewed by answering yes/no questions about certain criteria. Each yes/no answer is assigned a certain point value and when they add up their points, the resource is categorized as either popular or peer-reviewed. I could easily adopt NIU’s quiz as a combination of our two existing assignments.


  5. The Collegiate Research:More than Google” activity

    from the ACRL Framework Sandbox would expose students to both the scholarly conversation and to different source types within it. My students could use such exposure.

    Since this activity hinges on some pre-reading, I would have to discuss the assignment with the faculty early on. Making the pre-reading part of a participation grade would increase completion rates.

    Otherwise I could adapt this activity for a variety of topics and even for an online class (through groups in BlackBoard). I’ll keep this in my toolkit for courses where the instructor wants to cover the scholarly conversation.


  6. If I had to choose a favorite frame, it would definitely be scholarship as conversation. This metaphor is deeply engrained in the IL work I do in first year writing seminars, and it dovetail nicely with my classes that use “They Say/I Say” as the class text ( One analogy I’ve used in my classes for the past few years is that of music sampling. Just like twitter, sampling as a metaphor helps students understand the way in which scholars respond and build off of the work of others. We also discuss the difference between sampling and “stealing”- what happens when a musician uses someone else’s music in a way that is not legal or ethical? Again, it’s not hard for students to see the connection to scholarly writing and to their work as students.

    I really like this lesson for the way in which it invites students to not just explore the metaphor but to actually see the “conversation” in action: In this lesson students are given 2 articles, one of which is in response to the other. They are asked to consider the purpose of each source (who is it written for, why was it written) and to explore the sources each author used to make their arguments. In this way, they understand how “conversation” around a topic or issue develops as writers agree, respond, attack, persuade, etc. I think this lesson could go one step further and students could be asked to have a debate in which they argue the issue from the perspective of the article they were given.


  7. I took a look at this lesson:

    I loved this lesson! I loved the incorporation of both short videos and audio recordings and a reading as I think students enjoy having information from various mediums, and I also thought both the short videos and the reading were interesting enough and short enough to keep the student engaged.

    The first short video uses the analogy of a conversation at a party where you overhear various conversations and make links between them in your own mind. The second recording contains a discussion about study replication and how what we regard as “truth” can change over time, and raises the question as to whether this means findings are useless, which I think is an appropriate question for students to think through on the issue of scholarship as conversation. Incidentally, I loved that this recording also touched on the evolution of news stories as news outlets gain more information, as this is an important part of understanding the news life-cycle and media ethics, and I don’t think many people really understand or have considered that.

    The lesson plan then suggests having students break into small groups to discuss the reading, which discusses various milestones in what we have believed about the health effects of coffee, and to ask them to discuss that article in light of what they learned from the video and audio recording. The group then comes back together to discuss their thoughts and conclusions reached in small groups, as well as a chance to “circle back to course purview and research assignments, and emphasize to students that they are “emerging researchers and emerging scholars” and they are the next participants in the conversation. They may be the contributors of new research knowledge in the future.

    Overall I really liked this lesson a lot, and I think students will also. I think students might identify well with this particular topic, as I am guessing they’ve seen the changing headlines about the health of coffee over the last several years and, once it is pointed out to them, might be curious about why that is and how we should interpret it. I can imagine students being very engaged in this activity and taking a lot away from it.
    I don’t think I would change anything about this lesson, other than maybe come up with some other examples so that different groups could look at different examples and then share what they learned with the group and do some comparing and contrasting.


  8. This guide ( provides LOs for assessment via various assessment methods, but I am extrapolating one of the LOs for this discussion:

    Students will be able to distinguish between scholarly and non-scholarly (popular) sources.
    Which of the following is a scholarly source?
    Is the following a scholarly source? (providing a citation or description)

    Presently, I am revamping our library instructional module to better fit the Framework, or should I say that I’m rebuilding our library instruction to the specifications laid out by the Framework. Over the course of the spring semester, I have read articles pertaining to the Framework and its implementation, and I have surveyed the faculty for their input into future library instruction. This particular frame, “scholarship as conversation,” is NOT one of the frames they ranked highly as compared to the five other frames. So, I know that future library instructions will be specifically focused on a couple of the other frames.

    However, aspects of this particular frame can be applied within any library instruction. One such possibility that comes to mind would be to to have students break out into pairs, with each pair receiving two items, ex. article, photograph, book, etc. Each pair would be asked to assess their items based on a rubric that they received from me that outlined readily identifiable markers of scholarly work. After that group work finished, it would be time for a class discussion about other ways/means of identifying reliable information, scholarly or not.

    While most of the instructions that we do are one-shots and as such, are more narrowly focused, a class discussion about identifying scholarly information and reliable information can and should happen.


  9. The article that I chose on scholarship as conversation: dealt with library instruction in nonprofit management education (NME). The authors rightly state that research in this “young” discipline is highly scattered, with a lack of standardized terminology.This instruction session began with a preselected article to discuss, chosen by the instructor. Before class, the students answered open-ended questions about the selected article. The preselected article helped to save time and focus attention on the topic of scholarship as conversation. During class, students divided into groups and analyzed the conversation taking place when the article was written and saw who had cited the article later. They looked at the different kinds of terminology used. They then reflected on the experience they had. The students found the experience valuable, and the authors suggested some ways to improve the experience. One idea was to pick an article on a high-interest topic that could be linked to the class. This exercise is probably most effective with beginning students. More advanced students would probably rather explore on their own than read an article picked out for them.


  10. I wish I had more time to cover this in the instruction sessions I perform. Luckily, one of the primary databases I use gives a snapshot of how a research article might exists within the context of larger research. We cover citation chasing from bibliographies as a way to find primary sources and/or double check what is being put forth in a research article. (I’ve used Wikipedia’s references/notes as a way to highlight the importance of paying attention to what was published before and how it gets interpreted/used when it’s cited in later research or writings.) The database, PubMed, also lists if any comments have been published by the journal addressing an article and where this article was cited in PubMed Central. A Google “cited by” search can also be run if students are curious to find more. Usually the PMC links are enough to show how research begets more research.

    Another way i would love to showcase the importance of citations but haven’t had the chance is by presenting an article/opinion piece that I know they’d like to rebut. One way of critiquing a piece is double checking to make sure they’ve accurately represented the research they’re citing. I’d divvy up the class to find the original source material for some of the article’s claims. Except, I’ve noticed when I’ve tried to track down primary sources, poorly done or incomplete citations often make finding that original research very difficult. They might find it as frustrating as I do. They should not be like those authors.


  11. University of Cincinnati Libraries has a brief video that explains Scholarship as a Conversation—Research 101: Scholarship is a Conversation by Kali Stoehr and Anna Eisen, with voice by Kimberley Tate:

    It uses as its example the conversations a person overhears while at a party and how the listener may either join a conversation or take pieces of different conversations and make connections between them to expand the topic. The multiple conversations going on at a party represent the multiple academic conversations; one conversation or article does not represent coverage of the whole topic.

    Similar to Carroll and Dasler’s article using Twitter as an example, Stoehr and Eisen use another scenario with which students are familiar to present the idea of how students can enter the ongoing scholarly conversation.


  12. I enjoyed the reading for this one, but I wish they included a class outline or something.

    I have often touched on Scholarship as Conversation by talking about seeing who cited a specific article using Google Scholar. I usually bring it up in more upper level classes in demo form in sessions that are more workshop-y than what I would do for lower level courses.

    I like both of the activities posted above too! I think these could be good for lower level courses and Heather’s specifically would be good as a more structured session in an upper level course.


  13. This exercise in the Sandbox – Citation: A (very) Brief Introduction, contributed by Jesse Lopez from North Carolina State University, succinctly explains the need to cite sources:

    After watching this video, I would have students view these two videos:

    Scholarship as Conversation by WVU Libraries


    Scholarship is a Conversation by Daniel Chesney

    and discuss what they mean to them – did they realize that their research could contribute to the scholarly conversation?

    Regarding the reading – Since most of our students have used Twitter, or have knowledge about the tweets being generated in the last few months, they should be made aware of what is actually happening when something is retweeted. By making the comparison of retweeting with citing sources, I think this exercise would be an eye-opener for many of our students. The example from Borrowing Sam would help them to understand the need for referencing the source of any information generated.



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