Expert Searching: The Wandering

Photo by Muhammad Haikal Sjukri on Unsplash. Shared under Creative Commons.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” ~ JRR Tolkien – The Fellowship of the Ring

Google and Google Scholar

As I headed out on my expedition to find the answer to my inquiry question, I felt confident that I had packed all of the essential search tools I would need.  The first few articles I read however, led me to believe that while I had all the tools I needed, perhaps I had a faulty compass – I wasn’t heading in the direction that I had expected.  I had set out in search of a list of strategies for how to teach information literacy within inquiry learning.  I quickly learned though that the focus of most of the articles discussed the value of integrating information literacy within inquiry learning for more meaningful student learning (Herring, 2011; Gasque, 2016).  It left me pondering where I was headed and quickly led me to more questions:

How can  integrating information literacy strategies within inquiry learning in one subject be transferred to other subjects throughout the curriculum?

Could school-wide information literacy models be  used to help effectively incorporate information literacy into inquiry learning units throughout the school?

A quick diversion from my path, led me to Barbara Braxton’s blog and a post where she outlined the challenges of using a scope and sequence (an information literacy model) to teach information literacy.  Her arguments challenged me once again to see my topic in a different way.  I felt like I was wandering in the wilderness.

While I was roaming, I also found that many articles focused on information literacy within the university context, rather than schools, so I limited my search to secondary or high schools.  I continued re-searching and reading and found a number of interesting articles, saving a few for potential inclusion in my curated collection but still felt like I was travelling on several paths with no clear vision of where I was heading.

Google Searches (a sample)

A sample of the many Google searches explored on my journey.

Google Scholar searches (a sample)

A sample of the many Google Scholar searches on my journey.

Key Findings from my Google and Google Scholar searches:

  • An explicit process model provides a cognitive map of inquiry that provides scaffolding for learners of any age and small-scale studies show that students are more confident to complete inquiry tasks with the support of such models (Moore, 2005).
  • An integrated model of information literacy based upon domain or subject-based learning, rather than a stand-alone library skills program best supports student learning.  That is, students have a greater ability to engage with scholarly research (information literacy) when they have more subject-based topic knowledge (Thomson, 2013).
  • Teaching information literacy should be part of a holistic pedagogy or curriculum approach.  In this way, inquiry learning helps to broaden the view of information literacy because information literacy is embedded within the inquiry cycle/process (Lupton, 2017).
  • The Australian Curriculum contains no underlying process for inquiry and any number of models have potential to teachers and students to break down tasks and help students internalise the research process across the curriculum but this requires a collaborative approach between teacher and teacher-librarians within schools (FitzGerald, 2015).

I found a combination of Google and Google Scholar to be the most fruitful search engines for me.  I expect that this was because they were most familiar to me and I felt comfortable trying different search terms and I returned to both of them time and time again throughout my inquiry, following leads from other sources and testing synonyms of my search terms. 

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the most complex search strings that necessarily resulted in my greatest successes.  Rather, the level of background knowledge I had gained prior to the search was a greater indicator of my ability to find useful resources.  That is, over time, I became more aware of what I wanted to find and I could digest Google’s preview of the page before clicking to help me determine the usefulness of sources. 

I also found that setting up QUT Library in the ‘Library Links’ within Google Scholar was especially useful.  I can see that this feature would be very helpful to use with my senior students in the future (using the State Library instead of QUT).

Top Tips for Google Scholar success

– Before you begin your re-search, go to Settings–>Library Links to set up libraries which you have online access to.

– Before you click on the article link, read the description located underneath the link to decide whether the article will likely be helpful.

– If you find a useful article, click on the ‘cited by’ function below the description to find other articles which have cited that resource.

Overall, I found my Google and Google Scholar searches to be particularly insightful and I already feel like I am on a more defined path than I initially planned.  The concept of embedding information literacy has become my new search focus.  This was not necessarily like ‘finding gold’, but more like finding a working compass.  While I am still seeking to find effective pedagogical practices for teaching information literacy within inquiry learning, I am now asking myself:

How can teachers/teacher librarians embed information literacy within inquiry learning units?

While I now have a clearer focus for where I am heading within this inquiry, I also stumbled across a study which focused on testing the value of teaching metacognition within inquiry learning using Modern and Ancient History classes.  In the future, I would love to explore this further, but that’s a topic for another expedition.  On this trek, I am more interested in general principles of how to incorporate information literacy within inquiry in any subject.

How can inquiry learning in Modern History support the development of information literacy in students? 

I am still being challenged by Mandy Lupton’s GeSTE Windows for information literacy too, especially how the transformative and expressive windows might be applied in Modern/Ancient History.  I know that it is something that I will need to look at in the future as well.

How can the GeSTE Windows model of information literacy be applied to historical inquiry (especially the transformative and expressive windows)?

Database Searching

I have used databases on many occasions but this inquiry broadened my horizons by requiring me to use the thesaurus and subject search features.  It took some time to perfect my searches so that I received suitable results.


Proquest search strings

I found a number of valuable resources for inclusion in my curated collection via my Proquest searches.  Although I had already come across Carol Kuhlthau’s work, it was via my Proquest (and A+ Education) searches that I was really able to explore academic papers and studies on the usefulness of the Guided Inquiry Design framework and Information Search Process.

A+ Education

A+ Education search strings

This database returned many results that I had already seen before although there were a number of studies which explored the effectiveness of embedding information literacy within inquiry learning which were particularly valuable to my understanding.  By this point, I had already explored many articles on this topic so I moved on to the last phase of my research.

Overall, it was fascinating to see the difference using the thesaurus and Advanced Search had on the number of search results returned.  I found that the lower the number of results, the more helpful the resources were to my inquiry.  It was also interesting to note how much bigger Proquest was compared to A+ Education with a much higher number of results from the basic search.

Social Media

As I explored social media, I found that Twitter would likely be of most value to teachers exploring this path.  Guided Inquiry Design (@InquiryK12) has been invaluable to my inquiry learning pilgrimage and therefore their posts on Twitter will help me to stay connected with the spirit of my inquiry.  Leslie Maniotes (@lesliemaniotes) and Kath Murdoch (@kjinquiry) as well as the hashtag #kuhlthau will also provide me with options to continue my journey in the future and potentially offer me possibilities to explore other aspects of my topic as I follow like-minded people who comment and post on these pages.

I was also keen to find a video for my curated collection so returned to Google with a basic search of my two key terms using the ‘Video’ tab to search (rather than YouTube because I wanted to search broader than YouTube).  I did find some interesting webinars featuring Leslie Maniotes but decided that I already had sufficient resources with similar content.

As I was nearing home and finalising my official searching, I decided to take one last detour on my journey and explore the class website.  It was surprising that I had found and selected a number of the readings on the QUT Readings list for my curated collection (including Kuhlthau, 2010; Maniotes & Kuhlthau, 2014; Lupton, 2017).  I loved the affirmation that I had been on a fruitful journey as I continued to make connections with my findings and the information contained in some of the articles in the QUT Readings List.  Furthermore, now that I had experienced so much on my journey, re-reading some of the resources that I had read earlier in my journey, meant that I was able to appreciate their content in new ways (especially Williams & Wavell, 2007).

Curation: Arrival

2 Replies to “Expert Searching: The Wandering”

  1. Leanne, I really liked the succinct nature of your search summaries. You have been analytical and clearly understand the nuances of each of your chosen search tools. You managed to give us a good snapshot of your skills and findings without taking us on a blow-by-blow narrative. I can only hope to whittle my search posts down in such a fashion! I am also focusing on supporting the development of information literacy, and I really enjoyed reading the trajectory of your questions, particularly the ones you might save for next time. This has given me a lot of food for thought for the next assignment. One thing I wondered about your Google and Google Scholar searches was whether you wanted to mention something about why/how some of your searches proved fruitful even though there were a very large number of results. You mentioned becoming skilled at skimming the preview of the source before needing to click into it, but did you think there were any other features of Google and Google Scholar that assisted you in finding good articles even when ther were numerous results to sort through?

    1. Hi Penny,
      Thanks again for your feedback. I tried very hard to be holistic in my discussion of my searches, but I agree that perhaps I could have provided more detail about my findings at various stages – I have no less than 40 great links with accompanying notes about their most valuable points. Unfortunately, I was so focused on my search that I didn’t record which results came from which searches. Maybe I should create a list of key findings with associated links?
      I will add a brief discussion of the features of Google and Google Scholar that I found most useful.
      Thanks again!

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