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They Say, I Say: Research Is a Conversation

The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy

The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy highlights six core concepts that measure the degree to which anyone understands and can use information with success. The frames, or core concepts, define what it means to be "information literate."

Click on each tab in the "ACRL Frames Say, I Say" box below to see what the Framework says about that concept, and what I say in response.

ACRL Frames Say, I Say

ACRL says, "Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required."

I want to point out that as a writer you are already in the process of establishing (or perhaps undermining) your own authority. You do this by

  • the authority of the sources you select;
  • what you say about those sources (They Say, I Say);
  • what you say in response to those sources (They Say, I Say);
  • how well or poorly you organize your ideas and write to your audience;
  • citing your sources completely and accurately.

They say, "Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences."

I say that information creation -- writing, for example -- is a process that works best when you

  • read carefully and understand what your source says;
  • summarize or paraphrase what the source says accurately;
  • compare what several sources say;
  • respond authentically to what the sources say; and
  • return to other sources to qualify or deepen the conversation.

ACRL says, "Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. Legal and socioeconomic interests influence information production and dissemination."

I say that the most valuable sources of information for writing are

  • Those that interest you. These sources seem to communicate something to you about whatever you are writing about. This doesn't necessarily mean you agree with them. You can use a source that you disagree with. Analyzing and writing down why you disagree can be the source of great ideas.
  • Those that make you want to respond. You could respond in many ways, including by agreeing or disagreeing, by qualifying what the source says, or by using what the source says as evidence -- for or against. If you feel strongly about what the source says, and respond reasonably and authentically, you'll find it easy to write your assignment.

They say, "Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field."

Inquiry means asking questions to learn. This means several different things in the research process:

  1. What do they say about ... ? Research something that matters to you.
  2. What is your question about what they say? Learn what they say, and develop authentic questions that you want to answer. When you find answers, ask more questions!
  3. Think of your writing as an answer to your question. Research so your readers will want to hear you. You become the "they" in "they say" for your readers.

They say, "Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations."

I say that research and writing is precisely engaging in such conversations. It's not only "scholars, researchers, or professionals" who engage in these conversations. This is something all of us do all the time. As a college student with a research assignment you are being asked to engage in conversations that are important to a wider audience than usual.

They say, "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."

I agree, but want to add that it's useful and even enlightening to think of search as a conversation. The give and take of "they say, I say" is built into searching.

In fact, the characteristics of searching given above are also characteristics of interesting and valuable conversations:

  • Nonlinear: Sometime a conversation takes a turn that seems to lead away, but sometimes finds its way back to your original points. Follow your search intuitions (but don't wander off to get lost in the wilderness).
  • Iterative: Good conversations include modifying and retrying ideas, coming back to important suggestions, and looking at points from different perspectives. Make your searches iterative in this way.
  • Evaluative: We are always evaluating what we and others say in conversations. We even begin conversations by asking for evaluations: "How's it going?" To search successfully, learn to think consciously of how you are evaluating the sources you find.
  • Flexible: Every conversation can be unique if you listen to what the other says. As you search pay careful attention to what you find: listen.
  • New understanding develops: A conversation is an engagement in which you gain something (from what "they say") and contribute something ("I say"), and in which you put what they say and what you say together in a distinctive way.

For more about searching, look at the tab "Find What's Interesting and Engaging."

Searching as Strategic Exploration

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

Information has Value

Scholarship as Conversation, WVU

Information Creation as Process

Research as Inquiry

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