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Threshold Concepts: Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Searching as Strategic Exploration

Resource guide for faculty, librarians, and administrators on the new framework for information literacy for higher educaiton.

Searching as 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 a new understanding develops.

--Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

Searching for a Pair of Jeans

Comp 1 Research Activity

Knowledge Practices

Learners who are developing their information literate abilities do the following:

  • Determine the initial scope of the task required to meet their information needs
  • Identify interested parties, such as scholars, organizations, governments, and industries, which might produce information about a topic and determine how to access that information
  • Utilize divergent (e.g., brainstorming) and convergent (e.g., selecting the best source) thinking when searching
  • Match information needs and search strategies to search tools
  • Design and refine needs and search strategies, based on search results
  • Understand how information systems (i.e., collections of recorded information) are organized to access relevant information
  • Use different searching language types (e.g., controlled vocabulary, keywords, natural language)
  • Manage searching processes and results


Learners who are developing their information literate abilities do the following:

  • Exhibit mental flexibility and creativity
  • Understand that first attempts at searching do not always produce adequate results
  • Realize that information sources vary greatly in content and format and have varying relevance and value, depending on the needs and nature of the search
  • Seek guidance from experts, such as librarians, researchers, and professionals
  • Recognize the value of browsing and other serendipitous methods of information gathering
  • Persist in the face of search challenges, and know when enough information completes the information task

Research 101 Assignments

Searching as Strategic Exploration (University of Washington)

What is Scholarship? (William Badke on Threshold Concepts)