Skip to Main Content

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.

Searching Practice


Remain in your established pairs of librarians and patrons.

  • Patrons should use their prior topic from the Topics for Reference Interview handout and approach the librarians at the "desk"
  • Librarians should pick up the reference interview from the prior point by restating the question and seeking any additional clarification about the kind of information and source expectations of the patron; use the questions below to help 
  • Focus on RUSA Guidelines 4: Searching, 5: Evaluation, and 6. Closure
  • Reverse roles
  • Share experiences with the whole group

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

Open Questions

  • What are some other search terms/keywords that might describe your topic?
  • How do the search results seem to be organized?
  • Which of these results look appropriate for your research?
  • What did you see in this search result that made it look relevant or useful?
  • What other sorts of information would be helpful in addition to what we've found?

Closed Questions

  • Does this seem like enough relevant information for your paper?
  • Do you know how to revise your search?
  • Would you like to try searching some other places?
  • Do you know how to get the full text/physical copies of these search result items?
  • Do you know what (citations, subject headings, abstracts, etc.) are and how you can use them?