Chapter Three: Searching as Strategic Exploration / Scholarship as Conversation

Chapter Three Objectives

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How do we begin our research exploration? How do we join the scholarly conversation?

Two key components to the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) information literacy framework are Searching as Strategic Exploration and Scholarship as Conversation. In Searching as Strategic Exploration, they emphasize that, “Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops.” In other words, research is a complex, recursive process that involves inquiry, discovery, audience awareness, and serendipity.

Likewise, regarding Scholarship as Conversation, the ACRL notes that, “Instead of seeking discrete answers to complex problems, experts understand that a given issue may be characterized by several competing perspectives as part of an ongoing conversation in which information users and creators come together and negotiate meaning.” Good research questions typically don’t have a single uncontested answer. Rather, they are designed to engage scholars in an ongoing conversation that adds to the discourse in their field.

This conversation often begins within your paper as you engage with the work of other scholars. Some research projects provide a literature review, which is a section that presents your overview of the existing research in relation to a topic or problem. If the assignment does not call for a literature review to be included with the project, you should still conduct one. Doing so will help you understand the work of other scholars and gather background information for your research.

Learning Objectives

These concepts can be difficult for beginning researchers who may feel uncomfortable conversing with more experienced scholars. However, the goal with these two pages is to learn how to

  • enter a scholarly conversation
  • overcome the anxiety of influence (the fear that your work will be derivative)

You accomplish these goals by identifying gaps in research and establishing relevance. You’re not an outsider merely stringing together other people’s ideas, but part of an ongoing discussion. You’re engaged with the research and you have something to contribute to the conversation, and you’ve chosen a topic that you are truly interested in (if you were allowed a choice).


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Strategies for Conducting Literary Research Copyright © 2021 by Barry Mauer & John Venecek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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