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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Reference Interview and Instruction in Reference Training

This guide accompanies the U of I Library graduate assistant training session.

Question Negotiation Practice


Split up into pairs. Try to find someone who you have not talked with before! Decide who will be the patron and who will be the librarian; then you'll switch.

  • Patrons select a topic from the Topics for Reference Interview handout and approach the librarian at the "desk"
  • Librarians begin the reference interview by restating the question and then using the open and closed questions in the box below this one
  • Keep in mind what we discussed about how to negotiate the question as well as incorporating RUSA behavioral guidelines 1: Inclusion, 2: Approachability, and 3: Engagement
  • Share experiences with the whole group

Open and Closed Questions (can also see the RUSA Guidelines for good examples)

Open Questions

  • Can you give me an example of the kind of information you are looking for on...?
  • What interests you about...?
  • Could you describe the type of information you are hoping to find about...?
  • How in-depth would you like your research to be?

Closed Questions

  • What class is this for?
  • How many and what types of sources do you need for this paper?
  • Do you need background information, statistics, or research studies?