Framework Focus: Exploration

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.

6. Searching as Strategic Exploration

Key sentence: Novice learners may search a limited set of resources, while experts may search more broadly and deeply to determine the most appropriate information within the project scope. Likewise, novice learners tend to use few search strategies, while experts select from various search strategies, depending on the sources, scope, and context of the information need.

Knowledge practices:

  1. determine the initial scope of the task required to meet their information needs;
  2. identify interested parties who might produce information about a topic and then determine how to access that information;
  3. utilize divergent (e.g., brainstorming) and convergent (e.g., selecting the best source) thinking when searching;
  4. match information needs and search strategies to appropriate search tools;
  5. design and refine needs and search strategies as necessary, based on search results;
  6. understand how information systems are organized in order to access relevant information;
  7. use different types of searching language (e.g., controlled vocabulary, keywords, natural language) appropriately;
  8. manage searching processes and results effectively.


  1. exhibit mental flexibility and creativity
  2. understand that first attempts at searching do not always produce adequate results
  3. realize that information sources vary greatly in content and format and have varying relevance and value
  4. seek guidance from experts, such as librarians, researchers, and professionals
  5. recognize the value of browsing and other exploratory methods of information gathering
  6. persist in the face of search challenges, and know when they have enough information to complete the information task

We teach:

  • Research question formulation (CUFS 100, OMED 502 and above, MSBS 544)
  • Search logic and source type selection (ENGL 100, 101, 102 and other courses)
  • Keyword building (CUFS 100, ENGL 101)
  • Multiple search tools that are major-specific (Wide variety of courses)
  • Government information and subscription information (Various health science courses)
  • Iterative searching (CUFS 100, ENGL 101, various other courses)
  • Use of Boolean operators (ENGL 100, 101, 102, and other courses)
  • Environmental scanning techniques to “identify interested parties” (BADM 100, 200 and 536)
  • Advanced searching in a wide variety of disciplinary databases (various courses in all disciplines)
  • Organization and significance of our OneSearch discovery product (ENGL 101)
  • Use of controlled vocabulary - specifically MeSH headings - for searching (CLNR 451, PHAR 315, OMED 502 and above, MSBS 544, PA 609, PT 702)
  • Use of scripture reference searching (various CHRS and DIVI courses)
  • Distinguishing needs for data and statistics versus analysis and conclusions (POLS 260)
  • Working with philosophical sources as opposed to empirical (POLS 441)

“Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.” Association of College and Research Libraries, 11 Jan. 2016, Accessed 21 June 2016.

Download Framework Resources for Librarians.