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Inquiry Toolkit: A Guide for Faculty in Course Development

Information Literacy Framework

Queen’s University advocates development of a set of academic literacies: critical reading, effective writing and communication, numeracy, inquiry, critical thinking, problem solving, information literacy, academic integrity, effective collaboration, and intercultural literacy. Queen's librarians set learning outcomes for research-related academic skills that are aligned to course assignments.These outcomes are based on a framework of threshold concepts for information literacy.

The Association of College & Research Libraries  proposed a new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Educatrion in June 2014. It lists six threshold concepts that will help students develop their research and information skills. The Framework envisions information literacy as an arc of learning throughout  a student's degree program and career:

"Information literacy is a repertoire of understandings, practices, and dispositions
focused on flexible engagement with the information ecosystem, underpinned by
critical self-reflection. The repertoire involves finding, evaluating, interpreting,
managing, and using information to answer questions and develop new ones; and
creating new knowledge through ethical participation in communities of learning,
scholarship, and practice." (ACRL. (2014). Framework for information literacy for higher education, p.2)

The six concepts are described here.

Scholarship is a conversation

Threshold Concept 1

Idea of sustained discourse within a community with new ideas being developed over time from new perspectives and interpretations.


  • Analysis of scholarly article: how literature review informs study.
  • Analysis of review article: purpose is to connect and interpret ideas.
  • Citation tracking: how one author informs others over time.
  • Gather multiple perspectives on an issue from different sources.
  • Share research findings in a wiki to identify connections and questions.
  • Create a timeline to track evolving scholarly conversation.

Research as inquiry

Threshold Concept 2

Research is iterative and depends on asking increasingly complex questions.


  • Develop a topic into a set of potential research questions. Group work reveals multiple perspectives for inquiry.
  • Analysis of research log to demonstrate how the research process informs directions for inquiry.

Format as a process

Threshold Concept 3

The format of information sources reflects the process by which they were created.


  • Analysis of a Wikipedia entry or a scholarly article.
  • Compile a list of ways to evaluate the process for how information in a specific format was created.
  • Locate information from divergent sources and compare value.

Authority is constructed and contextual

Threshold Concept 4

Authority of information sources depends on their origins, the information need, and the context in which the information is used.


  • Compare different types of sources on a single topic to determine how to evaluate the authority of the author.
  • Compare the evidence in two film or book reviews with different conclusions.

Searching is strategic exploration

Threshold Concept 5

Experts use a strategic approach in selecting search tools, defining search vocabularies, designing searches, and analyzing search results. Information discovery is nonlinear and iterative.


  • Map types of information given different research questions.
  • Compare results from different sources and rank usefulness of search tool, given the information need.
  • Compare search strategies within two different databases.

Information has value

Threshold Concept 6

Information is a commodity and information users have a responsibility as both consumers and creators to engage with it ethically and respectfully.


  • Practice giving credit to original ideas through proper attribution and citation.
  • Review Creative Commons attribution rights and how to search for works licensed for reuse.