Information Literacy Assessment

The purpose of this guide is to provide a starting point for those who need to assess information literacy student learning outcomes, particularly those working with the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.

Research as Inquiry

Research is an ongoing process in which people keep asking new questions and looking for new answers.

While I do like the concept of the this frame, in practice I've been struggling with it and it's place in the Framework.  I have two major issues with it.

1)  Based on the description, it overlaps with other frames to a very great extent.  See the How does it relate to other frames? tab for more details.  While all of the other frames do overlap in places, each still has a distinct kernel that separates it from the others.  I feel that that is missing from Research as Inquiry-- just about every aspect of it is also covered somewhere else.

2) I feel there is a disconnect between the description of the frame and its knowledge practices. The description focus on the idea that research is ongoing and open ended.  It talks a lot about how questions are developed and built upon over time both in academia and the world at large. After reading those descriptions, the attached knowledge practices surprised me because they don’t focus on that big picture-- they are very concrete and hands-on and clearly related to students working on their own research papers/projects (scope, research methods, organizing/synthesizing/drawing conclusions from information).

Because of these two issues, I don't find this frame as cohesive or clear as the other frames.

Research as Inquiry has an extremely close connection to Scholarship as Conversation.  This is especially noticeable in the first three sentences of the elaboration, which talks about "problems or questions in a discipline or between disciplines that are open or unresovled."  It then mentions "collaborative effort"  and the how "points of disagreement," "debate and dialogue," and "conversations" play a role in the research process.  The wording is strikingly similar what is found in Scholarship as Conversation.

Then there is a second close tie with Searching as Strategic Exploration. Research as Inquiry also focuses on research as an iterative process.  It's dispositions focus on the need to keep an open mind, try multiple approaches, be flexible and persistent, and ask for help.  These same concepts appear in both the description and the dispositions of Searching as Strategic Exploration.

The knowledge practices are distinct for the most part, but don't have a close tie to the description of the frame.

All the first four Standards have either entire performance indicators our individual outcomes that tie into Research as Inquiry.  The reason is that the frame's performance indicators cover both developing/revising research projects and using information in those projects.  Those issues were a real focus of the Standards, so there are a great many indicators/outcomes that map to a handful of knowledge practices in the frame.  Research as Inquiry also has very broad dispositions related to being flexible and keeping an open mind during research and many outcomes can also be linked to those.

Learning outcomes that can be assess through multiple-choice questions

I don't find this frame to be suited to multiple-choice assessment. Neither the focus on the open-ended and iterative nature of research, nor the knowledge practices on scope/research methods/organizing and synthesizing information lend themselves to those types of questions.

Students will be able to identify strong research questions.

  • Which of the following research questions is the best or narrowest or most suited to discipline X?


Students will be able to match research methods to their descriptions.

  •     Which of the following is the best description of meta-analysis (or other research method)?
  •     Research method X involves doing thing X?  true/false
  •     Which of the following is a common step of archival research (or name of any research method)?

Learning outcomes for shorter assignments or quizzes

Students will be able to describe research methods that are commonly used in discipline X. Also listed under Scholarship as Conversation.

  • A quiz with questions about different research methods used in a specific field.
  • Assignment to locate and article (or other source) that uses a specific method and evaluate it.
  • Ask students to provide definitions of specific research methods, or come up with an example of a research project that would employ a specific research method.


Students will be able to give examples of how research is an iterative process that develops over time.

  • An assignment where students seek out sources from different time periods and compare the discussion of the topic over time.
  • An assignment where students use citations and/or citation indexing to track a scholarly conversation.
  • Assignment where students are asked to track the work of a specific scholar, focusing on how that person's research topics/questions develop and change over time.


Students will be able to synthesize information and draw reasonable conclusions from sources.

  • An assignment where students analyze a specific article and draw out its main ideas.


Students will be able to develop initial research questions/scope of investigation. see research plan rubric.

  • A worksheet where students brainstorm potential research questions or narrow a broad research topic down to specific research questions.


Students will be able to identify gaps or weaknesses in their own research.

  • Assignment where students revisit a completed paper/project and identify an area where their argument or supporting materials could be improved.


Learning outcomes for longer assignments with rubrics

Students will be able to develop initial research questions/scope of investigation.

Students will be able to select research method(s) appropriate to assignment and topic.  For upper-level and graduate classes.

Students will be able to revise research questions/scope based on initial results of the research process.

Students will be able to follow multiple lines of investigation.

Students will be able to exhibit flexibility and persistence during the search process.  See under Searching as Strategic Exploration.

Students will be able to incorporate information from sources into their own work.

Students will be able to synthesize information and draw reasonable conclusions.

Students will be able to locate information sources that are a good match to their topic.  See under Searching as Strategic Exploration.

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