You’ve made it to the final installment of this four-part Information Literacy curriculum that I’ve used now, with some content tweaks, in two senior seminars in two different departments. Both times, it resulted in far more productive one-on-one meetings between me and the students, and both times that faculty members said that they thought it paid off for them as well. For me, the research consultations I had with students from these classes felt far more collaborative, far more like the students were bringing their own subject expertise to the table and their own critical thinking and problem solving. They had almost always done more preparation and solo work before seeking me out, but had made good choices about coming to see me before wasting a whole bunch of time and getting overly frustrated with their work. And in both cases, the students greeted me cheerfully in hallways and the students center, updating me on their progress and generally behaving as if I was a trusted and welcome partner in their disciplinary work.
I will definitely keep working to integrate similar information literacy interventions in as many departments as I can. Granted, scheduling 4 sessions can seem daunting, but I have found multiple sessions alleviate many of the time-consuming and frustrating aspects of research support, making the scheduling a wonderful investment in a happier and more productive term for me.
Here, one last time, is the over view of the whole mini-curriculum:
- Presearch — identifying and preparing to join scholarly conversations
- Bibliography as an intellectual product
- The Literature Review — mapping your scholarly conversation
- Creativity in Constraint (You Are Here)
Session 4: Creativity in Constraint (10 minutes, generously)
This was my final chance to meet the group as a whole. They were getting ready to write their papers, and we had already showed them ways that the nearly unlimited sources can be relevant to their work. But we didn’t want to leave them with the paralysis of topics that were too massive or that tried to account for too many branchings in the literature. We wanted them to once again see their work as creative and intellectual work over which they have authority.
After taking a few minutes to get a sense for how they were feeling about their progress and if there were any questions they had for me, I talked briefly about the glories and challenges of creativity in constraint. This is a phrase I picked up from Eric Celeste, who comes back to that theme over and over in his writing. And for upper division students especially, it seems to be a concept that helps them move past the temptation to summarize everything rather than make a focused contribution in one area.
I talk about cropping photographs, and how the images gesture toward vast amounts of information that are left out of the frame, but that viewers can easily imagine. Similarly, papers gesture towards whole swaths of the literature that they don’t deal with directly. And that isn’t a sign of weakness — of not managing to fit everything in. Rather it’s a sign of careful decision making, of thinking “what do my readers most need to focus on and what can they fill in for themselves” and “what do I most want them to see that they may not have seen in this way before.”
And with that, I renew my invitation to come visit me in my office as they finish up their papers.