Copyright ® 1994 by Academic Press, Inc.
All rights of reproduction in any forth reserved.
Used by NWIC Virtual Library by permission of the author 3/01.

Students and the Information Search Process:
Zones of Intervention for Librarians

Carol Collier Kuhlthau
School of Communication, Information and Library Studies Rutgers University New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903

I. Introduction

Librarians have a long and distinguished tradition of services assisting students to find information for research assignments in a variety of courses and in various disciplines. In one sense, these services are interventions for improving access and learning. Interventions, as I use the term, refer specifically to those situations in which librarians directly interact with students who are in the process of information seeking or expect to be in the near future.

There are two basic library services in which the professional librarian is involved in such intervention: reference and bibliographic instruction. Reference is mediation with the student to help in the location and use of sources and information. We might think of mediation as occurring on different levels, from a simple response to a specific question to getting involved in a student's extended search process. Bibliographic instruction is education for learning tools, sources, and concepts of information and strategies for locating and using tools and sources. Bibliographic instruction, also, may be described as occurring on different levels, from general introductory sessions to instruction on identifying and interpreting information to consultation on an evolving problem.

All services of the library are directly related to students' information seeking behavior. Recent studies of the information search process of secondary students and undergraduates reveal a complex, constructive process of learning from a variety of sources (Kuhlthau, 1989). These studies indicate important directions for services in reference and bibliographic instruction.

II. Information Seeking as a Constructive Process

In order to appreciate the dynamic nature of the information search process it is helpful to look to the literature describing constructive processes (Bruner, 1986; Dewey, 1933; Kelly, 1963). Two basic themes run through the theory of construction. One is that we construct our unique personal worlds, and the other is that construction involves the total person incorporating thinking, feeling, and acting in a dynamic process of learning. The constructive process is not a comfortable, smooth transition but rather an odyssey of unsettling and sometimes threatening experiences.

George Kelly's personal construct theory (1963) is particularly useful for identifying common patterns in construction. Kelly describes a constructive process as evolving through a series of phases that involve the emotions as well as the intellect. At the first encounter with a new experience or idea, the typical person is confused and anxious. This state of uncertainty increases until the person reaches a threshold of choice where the quest to find meaning is either abandoned or a hypothesis is formed that moves the process along to confirm or reject the new construct (Bannister, 1977).

This view of construction provided a frame of reference for a series of studies on the information search process (Kuhlthau, 1991). The hypothesis for these studies was that an information search is a process of construction that involves the whole person.

A series of five studies was conducted of students' perspective of information seeking in libraries. The first study addressed the general problem of learning more about the student's experience in the search process. The underlying question was whether students' experiences in the information search process resembles the phases in the process of construction depicted by Kelly. A qualitative study of a group of high school seniors in an extensive information seeking task over an extended period of time provided the opportunity to analyze and investigate the full range of the constructive process rather than single incidents of information seeking (Kuhlthau, 1988a).

III. Model of the Information Search Process

The findings were reported in a model of the information search process depicting common patterns of tasks, feelings, thoughts, and actions in six stages: initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection, and presentation.

A. Stage 1: Initiation

The search process begins with the announcement of the research assignment, which frequently causes students to express feelings of uncertainty and apprehension. Their thoughts center on contemplating the assignment and comprehending their task. They recall prior experiences with similar assignments and begin to explore the boundaries of possible topics to select. They may talk to each other about the assignment and browse the library collection.

B. Stage 2: Selection

In the second stage of the search process students select topics to research. They frequently feel uncertain until they have made their choices and then express a brief elation after their selection. Their thoughts involve weighing possible topics against the criteria of personal interest, the assignment requirement, the information available, and the time allotted for the project. They predict possible outcomes of their choices and select the topic that they consider to have the most potential for success. Their actions include continuing to talk to other people, in particular their teacher, classmates, and family; making a preliminary search of the library; and using reference sources to gain an overview of topics under consideration.

C. Stage 3: Exploration

The third stage, when students explore information to learn about their topics, is often the most difficult. As they seek information, they are likely to become increasingly confused by the inconsistency and incompatibility they encounter among different sources and with their own preconceived notions. Feelings of doubt concerning their topics are prevalent, as well as doubt in their ability to do the assignment well and in the library to have the information they need. In exploratory thinking, efforts and attention need to concentrate on learning about the general topic and on seeking an appropriate focus. The students' actions involve locating information and evaluating relevance, reading to become informed, and reflecting on new information. Taking notes should consist of listing interesting facts and ideas rather than copying long passages from texts. Tolerating uncertainty while intentionally seeking a focus is helpful for students during the exploration stage.

D. Stage 4: Formulation

The fourth stage, when students form a focus from information on the general topic, is the critical point in the search process. The focus is a personal perspective, an angle or hypothesis, that is developed from reading and reflecting on information gathered about a general topic. As a focus is formed, feelings shift from confusion and doubt to optimism and confidence. When students do not form a focus during the search process they often experience difficulty throughout the remainder of the assignment that may result in writing blocks.

E. Stage 5: Collection

In the fifth stage, students collect information on their focused view of the topic rather than on all aspects of the topic in general. Although they realize the considerable amount of work ahead at this point they have more confidence, a sense of direction, and frequently experience an increased interest in their projects. The focus serves as a controlling idea for gathering information and directing the search. Students find it helpful to seek information to define and extend their focused topics, taking detailed notes only on that which pertains to their chosen focus and not on the topic in general. In this stage, a comprehensive search of the library collection and use of a wide range of sources is helpful.

F. Stage 6: Preparation

The sixth stage of the search process prepares students to write. As closure approaches, they draw the search to an end, frequently noting diminishing relevance and increasing redundancy in the sources of information they encounter. They express feelings of relief, as well as satisfaction and occasionally disappointment, depending on the success of their search. Strategies that students find helpful are to return to the library for a final search before beginning to write and to outline in order to organize their ideas for writing.

This model of the information search process became the hypothesis for further studies to verify and refine the concept of construction proposed. Two longitudinal studies and two studies of larger, more diverse populations of library users were conducted. The findings of these studies provided verification of the model, which may be summarized in this way (Kuhlthau, Turock, George & Belvin, 1990). The information search process is a complex process of construction in which students progress from uncertainty to understanding. Uncertainty, confusion, and frustration are associated with vague, unclear thoughts about a topic or problem. As thoughts become more clearly focused, students report increased confidence and feeling more sure, satisfied, and relieved.

IV. Common Patterns in the Process of Information Seeking

In the studies four important patterns were noted in the students' information search process. First, there were distinct changes in thoughts and confidence during the information search process. Students' comments at two points in the search illustrate this change. Before the formulation stage one student said, "I was worried that I couldn't do a good job because I didn't know what I was doing." After the formulation stage the same student stated that, "I felt pretty happy about it. I was beginning to find recurrent themes." Another student described a similar experience. Before formulation the student commented, "I was confused, lost, because I like to know that things are in order." After formulation the student said, "I was a lot more relieved because I had a goal. Once you know what you are looking for, it's so much easier to go about what you are doing." Students commonly feel more confident after formulation when they have a sense of direction and a clearer understanding of their task. After the formulation stage they are usually able to conduct their research more independently than in earlier stages of the search process.

Second, rather than a gradual increase in confidence from the beginning of the search to the end there was a noticeable dip in confidence during the third stage of the information search process, exploration. The exploration stage was found to be the most difficult for students. At this point they were most likely to change their topics, expressed more confusion and frustration, and were less engaged in their project than in later stages of the search process.

Third, the task of formulating a focus was often misunderstood. The formulation involved in the search process required more than narrowing a topic. Rather students were required to formulate their personal perspective of the problem or topic. Students who had not formulated a focused perspective during the search process described great difficulty writing the research paper. One student commented that,

I had a general idea not a specific focus, but an idea. As I was writing, I didn't know what my focus was. When I was finished, I didn't know what my focus was. My teacher says she doesn't know what my focus was. I don't think I ever acquired a focus. It was an impossible paper to write. I would just sit there and say, "I'm stuck." There was no outline because there was no focus and there was nothing to complete. If I learned anything from that paper it is, you have to have a focus. You have to have something to center on. You can't just have a topic. You should have an idea when you start. I had a topic but I didn't know what I wanted to do with it. I figured that when I did my research it would focus in. But I didn't let it. I kept saying, "this is interesting and this is interesting and I'll just smush it altogether." It didn't work out.

Fourth, interest in the topic commonly increased after formulation. At the beginning of the assignment, students' main motivation was external. The teacher's requirements provided the primary impetus for approaching the task. After formulation when students had constructed their own understandings of the topic under investigation and had formed their own perspective of certain aspects of the problem, they became more interested and intellectually engaged. By the end of the project many students were motivated by internal, personal interest.

V. Misunderstanding of Search Tasks

Although the studies reveal the information search process to be a dynamic constructive process, students rarely understood that the library might play an important role in each of the stages of the process. When questioned about their search task at each of the stages, students' perception of task differed considerably from those described in the model in the stages of the information search process. The appropriate task for each stage according to the model is listed here.

  1. 1. Initiation: to recognize information need
  2. 2. Selection: to identify general topic
  3. 3. Exploration: to investigate information on general topic
  4. 4. Formulation: to formulate focused perspective
  5. 5. Collection: to gather information pertaining to focus
  6. 6. Presentation: to complete information search

In each stage of the search process, students responded that their task was to gather information and to complete information search, thus indicating that they did not identify the more exploratory and formulative tasks as being a legitimate part of the search process. There was evidence of a lack of tolerance for the early exploratory stages leading to formulation and few strategies for accomplishing the tasks of those early stages. Negative terms were used to describe their action in the early stages, such as procrastination, lazy, and disinterested. Rarely did students acknowledge the need for time to read and reflect in order to formulate a focus to move the search ahead.

VI. Principle of Uncertainty for Library Services

These studies indicated an important dichotomy in library services. On the one hand, librarianship is based on a principle of certainty and order, what I have called the bibliographic paradigm (Kuhlthau, 1993). In it sophisticated systems for collecting, classifying, organizing, and retrieving texts or information have been developed that may be matched to specific queries in an efficient and orderly manner.

On the other hand, many of the important information needs of students that arise within the context of academic life cannot be expressed in a single, precisely formulated question. On the contrary, uncertainty and confusion characterize most information problems, particularly in the early stages. Therefore, a conflict arises when library services developed under the bibliographic paradigm are used to match the uncertainty and disorder of the varied information needs of students in a dynamic learning environment.

The studies of the student's perspective of the process of information seeking dictate the necessity of recognizing a principle of uncertainty for library services (Kuh1thau, 1993b). An uncertainty principle would acknowledge feelings of anxiety and lack of confidence and recognize the uncertainty, confusion, and frustration associated with vague, unclear thoughts about a problem or topic. An uncertainty principle would acknowledge the complex constructive process of moving from uncertainty to understanding.

VII. Concept of Diagnosing Zones of Intervention

Within this context of uncertainty in the information search process and the need for more exploratory strategies particularly in the early stages, the concept of a zone of intervention was developed. The zone of intervention is modeled on Vygotsky's (1978) notion of a zone of proximal development in teaching and learning. Vygotsky, whose work has had profound influence on learning theory, developed the concept of identifying an area or zone in which intervention would be most useful to a learner. This concept provides a way for understanding intervention into the constructive process of another person. Identifying when intervention is needed and determining what intervention is helpful calls for diagnostic skills. Intervention when an individual is self-sufficient is unnecessary, as well as intrusive and annoying. Intervention when individuals cannot proceed on their own or can proceed only with great difficulty is enabling and enriching. When a person can do with assistance what he or she cannot do alone is the zone of intervention.

Intervention based on a principle of certainty and order, that is, intervention in the bibliographic paradigm, concentrates on matching a person's query with the library collection. Intervention based on an uncertainty principle encompasses the holistic experience of using information from the perspective of the individual student. Such intervention addresses a full range of information needs within the dynamic stage of the information search process including initiating, selecting, exploring, formulating, as well as gathering and collecting.

This is not to suggest that librarians be involved in every stage of the information search process of every student. On the contrary, the concept of a zone of intervention presumes that there is a way to determine when it is important to intervene and when intervention is unnecessary. The critical question is what is the zone of intervention that is helpful to an individual in his or her information seeking process. The concept of a zone of intervention calls for diagnosing research problems and developing appropriate interventions.

VIII. Five Zones of Intervention

Students' arrive at the library with different states of knowledge and at different points in the information search process. These states of knowledge and stages of process require a range of intervention. In my view, interven­tions with students may be thought of as occurring in five zones, as shown in Table I.

In zone 1 (Z 1) the problem is self-diagnosed and a search is self-conducted. In zone 2 (Z2) through zone 5 (Z5) the problem is diagnosed through an interview to elicit a problem statement and background information. A problem statement or a request for information or a particular resource by the student usually initiates the interview. The librarian should seek background information on the problem in at least four areas: task, interest, time, and availability.

Examples of questions to gain background in these categories might be: What is the nature of the overall task that initiated the information search? What is the task of the particular stage of the search process the student is experiencing? What aspects of the overall task are of particular interest to the individual student? What are the time constraints of the task and the information search process? What information is readily accessible and what is the extent and depth of the information available? These interrelated considerations create a complex set of contexts and choices for each individual student to address.

Using the expanded theoretical framework that incorporates the uncertainty principle with traditional frameworks of organization and order, the librarian determines the zone of intervention that is indicated. The student's situation is identified as a product problem or a process problem. A product problem may be addressed with a source of information, often within the library collection. A process problem, however, is more complex and needs to be addressed in a holistic, ongoing way. A process problem places the student in one of the stages in the constructive process of seeking meaning.

When a problem is identified as a product problem Z2 through Z4 intervention is indicated. Z2 intervention requires the right source. Z3 intervention requires some relevant sources and Z4 requires a sequence of relevant sources. However, when a problem is identified as a process problem Z5 intervention is indicated. Z5 requires dialogue between the librarian and student leading to exploration, formulation, construction, learning, and application.

IX.Levels of Mediation

The concept of zones of intervention determined by the nature of the student's problem and the stage of the student's process leads to the identification of levels of mediation and education as shown in Table I. Reference service may be differentiated in five levels of mediation. The first level is the organizer. The organizer is essential for providing access to a collection of resources but requires no direct intervention. The organizer provides the organized collection for a self-service search that corresponds to Z1 intervention.

The second level of mediation is the locator responding to Z2 intervention. The locator offers ready reference intervention. A single fact or single source search is conducted in response to a specific query requiring a specific answer or source.

The third level of mediation is the identifier, which responds to Z3 intervention. The identifier provides standard reference intervention. A topic or question is presented by the student in a brief interview. A subject search is conducted resulting in the identification of a group of relevant sources recommended in no particular order.

The fourth level of mediation is the advisor, which responds to Z4 intervention. The advisor provides pattern intervention. A problem is pre­sented by the student and negotiation of an approach results in the identification of a group of sources recommended in a particular order for use. A subject search is conducted identifying a sequence of relevant sources.

The fifth level of mediation is the counselor responding to Z5 intervention. Z5 is the only level that goes beyond a source orientation to address the constructive process of learning from a variety of sources. The counselor provides process intervention. A problem is identified through a dialogue that leads to a strategy, sources, sequence, and continuing redefinition in the information search process. The holistic learning experience of the user is an integral part of the mediation.

Table I Intervention Diagnostic Chart
Zones of Intervention Levels of mediation Levels of education Intervention
Z 1 Organizer Organizer Self service
Z2 Locator Lecturer Single source
Z3 Identifier Instructor Group of sources
Z4 Advisor Tutor Sequence of sources
Z5 Counselor Counselor Process intervention

X. Levels of Education

In a similar way, bibliographic instruction may be described on five levels of education that parallel those of mediation and also correspond to the five zones of intervention. On the first level, the organizer provides the organized collection for self-service use but offers no instruction at Z1 intervention.

On the second level responding to Z2 intervention, the lecturer provides orienting instruction. Orientation is offered consisting of a single-session overview of services, policies, facility, and collection. Orientation is general and not addressed to a specific problem, question, or assignment.

The third level of education is the instructor that responds to Z3 intervention by providing single-source, course-related instruction. A variety of independent sessions are offered to instruct on one type of source to address a specific problem related to a course assignment at point of need. Instructional sessions are separate, not interrelated or connected.

The fourth level of education is the tutor, which responds to Z4 intervention by providing strategy, course-integrated instruction. A series of sessions are offered to instruct on the use of a group of sources and to recommend a sequence for using the sources to address a specific problem integrated with a course assignment.

The fifth level of education is the counselor responding to Z5 intervention by providing process instruction. Instruction at this level incorporates holistic interaction over time through guidance in identifying and interpreting information to address an evolving problem. The counselor merges the role of educator and mediator in ongoing process intervention.

XI. Counselors' Role in Information Search Process

Libraries have developed extensive services to respond to intervention into Z2 through Z4. Product or source intervention of the locator/lecturer, the identifier/instructor, and the advisor/tutor are well established and quite effective in many cases, although perhaps not articulated in this way. While there is always room for improvement and innovation, librarians can take pride in the accomplishments of interventions into these zones.

Process intervention in Z5, however, is in desperate need of development. Although the notion of an information counselor is not new, the identification of the counselor as the provider of intervention in the constructive process of information seeking is an innovative way of viewing library services (Dosa, 1978; Debons, 1975).

Longitudinal studies of undergraduates indicate a critical need for process intervention (Kuhlthau, 1988b,c). One of the college graduates who had been exposed to the process approach to information skills in high school noted that he was better prepared for college research assignments than other students. He describes a need for Z5 intervention in this way.

I had more exposure to research papers than most high school students. By working with you I learned not to panic if it doesn't all fall in together the first day you walk into the library. I had a lot of friends in college who were panicked at doing a research paper. I'll welcome a research paper any day regardless of the subject. To tell you the truth I haven't come across any of my peers who think like that, not a one. When my roommate's research paper was due last semester, I helped him with it. He doesn't even know what he is afraid of. Maybe of not finding the one article that is going to make his paper? I'll worry about a paper because things don't fall into place but it's not the kind of thing I lose sleep over. I've learned to accept that this is the way it works. Tomorrow I'll read this over and some parts will fall into place and some still won't. If not I'll talk to the professor. The mind doesn't take everything and put it into order automatically and that's it. Understanding that is the biggest help.

The counselor's role in Z5 intervention is firmly grounded in an uncertainty principle. An important aspect of the counselor's role is to create an engaging learning environment. Innovative ways of guiding and coaching students through the early stages of exploration and formulation need to be developed. Mediation and education can be built around strategies of collaborating, continuing, charting, conversing, and composing.

XII. Process Intervention Strategies

A. Collaborating

The information search process need not be thought of as an isolated, competitive undertaking but may be considered a cooperative venture with the librarian as a collaborator. When the librarian takes on a collaborative role as an interested participant in the project, process intervention is the natural result.

Peers may also serve as collaborators. A team approach to library research more closely matches tasks outside the academic environment. Collaborative techniques such as brainstorming, delegating, networking, and integrating are productive activities for information seeking and develop abilities valued in the workplace. Interventions that promote collaboration in the process of information seeking build skills and understandings that transfer to other situations of information need.

B. Continuing

Continuing intervention addresses evolving information problems rather than queries that can be answered in a single incident with one source. The process of information seeking involves construction in which the student actively pursues understanding and meaning from the information encountered over a period of time. The process is commonly experienced in a series of thoughts and feelings that shift from vague to anxious to clear and confident as the search progresses. Continuing intervention responds to students' complex, dynamic learning process in Z5.

Process intervention that continues throughout the full duration of the information search process not only guides students in one specific research assignment but also establishes transferable process skills. Students are led to view information seeking as a constructive process and to know that exploration and formulation are essential tasks for bringing order to uncertainty through personal understanding. Continuing intervention also addresses the concept of enough. An important understanding for addressing continuing, complex problems is a notion of what is enough information for closure and presentation. What is enough was a relatively simple notion when a person could gather all there was to know on a topic. The concept of enough is quite a different matter in the present-day information environment. Understanding what is enough is essential for making sense of information around us. Enough relates to seeking meaning in a quantity of information by determining what one needs to know and by formulating a perspective on which to build. The information search process treats the concept of enough as what is enough to make sense for oneself.

The concept of enough may be applied to the tasks in each of the stages of the information search process. Continuing intervention enables students to decide what is enough to recognize an information need, to explore a general topic, to formulate a specific focus, to gather information pertaining to the specific focus, to prepare to share what has been learned, or to solve a problem.

Continuing intervention supports students throughout the information search process and guides them in using information for learning in each stage of the process.

C. Conversing

Conversation gives the counselor an opportunity to listen to the student and to recommend appropriate strategies for working through the particular stage in the process that the student is experiencing. Diagnosis of the student's stage is important since formulation of a focused perspective is the turning point in the search. The counselor recommends different strategies before and after the formulation of a focus. Prior to formulation, a more invitational approach to searching is recommended; there might be exploratory reading and reflecting in order to better understand the problem. Following formulation, a more focused approach of documenting and organizing in order to solve the problem is recommended.

In the early stages, counselors guide students away from overly indicative conversations that narrow the inquiry without exploring the broader prospects. After a focused perspective has been formed, counselors guard against overly invitational conversations that promote gathering general information rather than limiting the search to concentrate information pertinent to the focused perspective. Counseling in the stages of the search process guide students through the entire sequence of starting, exploring, focusing, gathering, and closing.

Caution should be used in discussing the stages of the search process not to belabor the issue beyond the point of being helpful to the student. Merely acknowledging the presence of confusion and uncertainty at the beginning and recommending strategies for proceeding is usually sufficient to get a person started. It is important, however, to suggest that some ongoing assistance may be helpful and to offer an invitation to schedule sessions or meeting for counseling throughout the process.

Conversations encourage students to discuss ideas in the information encountered as the information search progresses aiding them to form their own perspective of a topic. Counselors may encourage dialogue by drawing from the student's dynamic process through invitational, exploratory questioning. The following questions are examples of those that may initiate and sustain conversations with students. What ideas seem particularly important to you? What questions do you have? What problems are emerging? What is the focus of your thinking? What are the guiding ideas for your search? Where are the gaps in your thinking? What does not fit with what you already know? What inconsistencies do you notice in the information you have encountered?

Counselors can discuss the sequence of stages in the process with students and come to some agreement on the stage the student is in. Conversation provides an opportunity for the counselor to acknowledge feelings commonly associated with the particular stage that the student is experiencing. For example, if a selection or exploration stage is identified the counselor may say, "You are probably feeling somewhat uncertain and a bit anxious at this point. Most people do." When a collection stage is identified, the counselor's comments would be directed toward the student's personal perspective and particular area of interest. Charting and composing interventions are an excellent basis for conversing with students.

D. Charting

Charting intervention is effective for visually presenting a large amount of information in a compact way. It is particularly helpful for guiding students in formulating ideas and for presenting the complete information search process to them.

One particular charting intervention has been consistently effective for making students aware of the stages in the information search process and for helping them to understand what to expect in each stage. A chart of the model of the information search process is used to illustrate the tasks, feelings, thoughts, and actions that are commonly experienced in each of the six stages (Kuhlthau, 1994).

For most students a critical zone of intervention is the stage of exploration, after a general area or topic has been selected but before a personal perspective has been formed. By using a chart of the six stages of the information search process, the counselor may identify the student's stage in the process, acknowledge the student's feelings, explain the task before him or her, and recommend appropriate strategies. Strategies recommended in the exploration stage may be quite different from those recommended in the collection stage. For example, students in the exploration stage may be advised to read for general themes and to list ideas, whereas students in the collection stage may be advised to read for details and take copious notes.

Conceptual mapping techniques may be applied to charting intervention for presenting and visualizing emerging ideas. Conceptual maps organize ideas and show connections between disparate concepts, similar to outlining but with more visual elements. A simple conceptual map might begin with a circle or box containing the general topic or main idea. Surrounding circles or boxes may be added to show related concepts, with lines and arrows connecting the elements in a meaningful display. The visual, nonlinear aspect of conceptual mapping fosters the creative process of connecting ideas and organizing information as a search progresses.

Charting intervention is a creative way to demonstrate common patterns in the information search process, to foster formulation, and to organize ideas for presentation.

E. Composing

Composing promotes thinking and formulation in the search process. Journal writing has been found to be an excellent way to encourage composing, to advance formulation, and to track an individual's constructive process. Counselors may recommend that students keep research journals in which they record ideas, questions, and connections as they progress through their search. Writing in a research journal is much more comprehensive than jotting notes on notecards or in a notebook. A journal may be started when the project is first initiated and be kept until the presentation is made. However, the purpose of the journal changes as the search progresses. Students are instructed to set aside some time each day or every few days to write about their problem or topic. Instructions might be stated in the following manner:

In early stages when you are deciding on what topic to choose, write to clarify or define possible choices. Write about conversations you have about your topic. As you proceed in the process write your reactions to your readings as well as your thoughts and questions about your topic. Be sure to record all incidents where you made an important decision or discovery. Include the development of a central theme, a point of view or focus in your thinking. Record any deadend of a path or change in the problem or topic which prompted a new approach.

The main objective of composing during the search process is to serve as a tool for formulating thoughts and developing constructs. Counselors may also recommend free writing as a means of assisting formulation. Students may be encouraged to write about the focus of their topics or problem at several different points in the search process. These pieces of writing promote private reflection, which can help students to make connections and inferences in the information they encountered and to see gaps that need further investigation. When these writings are shared with the counselor they can form a basis for deep understanding of the student's evolving information problem.

Composing is commonly the outcome or product of the information search process. Students are assigned a research or term paper to be written. Composing interventions, however, apply writing throughout the information search process as a means for fostering formulation of ideas on an evolving problem from the information encountered in an extensive search process.

XIII. Conclusion

Consideration of how library services change in the information age lead to the identification of vital new roles for librarians in the process of information seeking. There has been much talk of the wonders of the information society with technologies for increasing and rapid access to information but librarians need to address the real concerns of an individual seeking meaning in this information-rich environment. Students need a clear understanding of the constructive process of information seeking and should develop strategies for learning from a variety of sources.

Librarians in the information age are called to diagnose zones of intervention when students benefit from counseling in the information search process. They need to develop process interventions to guide students in seeking meaning from information for deep understanding.


Portions of this paper were presented in the Beta Phi Mu 1992 Annual Distinguished Lecture at the University of Michigan, School of Information and Library Studies.


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