Creative research and that show about Leonardo da Vinci

So I haven’t been publishing quite as much lately because there’s currently a lot of change going on at my library, some of which is directly affecting my position and the work I do. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it can be difficult to know how to talk about change while you’re still in the middle of it. I’m sure I’ll have some useful reflections on all of this at some point, but for now it’s a little harder than usual to know what to say or how to say it.

But I didn’t want to leave this space blank in the meantime so I decided for this week at least I’m just going to do a fun post that’s tangentially related to some of what I usually talk about here on this blog, especially with regard to creative research.

I want to talk about the TV series Leonardo as both a portrayal of creative research and a product of creative research.

Note: The following post contains spoilers for the first three episodes of Leonardo.

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Dear ACRL Framework: the expert researcher is a myth

Back when the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy was introduced, one of the key improvements between it and the Standards that had come before it (at least to my mind) was the way that it distinguished between the behaviors of novice researchers who are still developing their understanding of research practices and expert researchers. Rather than making it seem like there was some hard line between being information literate and not, the Framework shows that information literacy learning develops along a spectrum

I’ve never had a reason to question the Framework’s use of the word “expert” before. It never even occurred to me to do so. After all, if we’re talking about a spectrum of research experience, it makes sense that with “novice” at one end of that spectrum, “expert” would be at the other. But lately I’ve been doing some reading in the writing studies field that got me wondering a little bit.

First, I started to wonder how, exactly, we know how an expert researcher thinks about the research process or what their behaviors are. The Framework does not cite any sources that establish where these traits come from or what they’re based on. They seem to be things we as a profession just “know” about how experts do research.

So then I started wondering: is this really how experts do research? Personally, on the spectrum of “novice” to “expert,” I consider myself much closer to the “expert” end of things than the “novice” end, at least when it comes to the research contexts in which I work most often. I do find my own practices and ways of thinking reflected in some of the Framework’s descriptions. For example, from the Scholarship as Conversation frame: “Experts understand that, while some topics have established answers through this process, a query may not have a single uncontested answer. Experts are therefore inclined to seek out many perspectives, not merely the ones with which they are familiar.” I definitely recognize this from my own recent research projects, especially the one where I’m exploring why creative research often isn’t taught as formal part of creative writing programs in higher education. There’s no easy answer there and I’ve read some 70 sources to learn as much as I can about the different ways of thinking creative writing professors and other writing studies experts have about the role of pedagogy in their field. This isn’t something I would expect my undergraduate students, many of whom are closer to the “novice” end of the spectrum, to take the time to do, even if they had it.

Other “expert” practices the Framework describes are less applicable to my own work. For example, from the Searching as Strategic Exploration frame: “Experts realize that information searching is a contextualized, complex experience that affects, and is affected by, the cognitive, affective, and social dimensions of the searcher. Novice learners may search a limited set of resources, while experts may search more broadly and deeply to determine the most appropriate information within the project scope. Likewise, novice learners tend to use few search strategies, while experts select from various search strategies, depending on the sources, scope, and context of the information need.” As an expert researcher, I understand that there’s value in searching broadly and deeply and trying different search strategies. I believe I’m much more resilient in this respect than a novice researcher would be. But do I search broadly and deeply? Do I select from various strategies? Not really. As someone who’s been doing research in the same or similar areas for a long time, I know what works and I pretty much stick to that. This includes strategies students don’t always think to employ–like using the works cited list in a useful source to identify other possibly useful sources–but I don’t waste a lot of time selecting search strategies to get what I need. Mostly I feel like I don’t need to.

There are other behaviors and ways of thinking that we often teach students about that I frankly don’t do. For example, concept maps. Or coming up with elaborate search strategies. Or gathering all of your sources before you start writing. None of this is mentioned in the Framework but when we teach, we often present them as if doing research in this systematic and organized way is somehow the mark of an expert. Or at all realistic. (Which it isn’t.)

Now, obviously I’m basing all of this on my own experience and practices. But I’m willing to bet that there are many highly experienced researchers out there, especially ones outside the library field, who would look at the Framework’s description of an “expert researcher” and not recognize themselves in it.

This makes me want to know even more what the Framework is basing its ideas about an “expert researcher” on if it doesn’t come from any established model or, I suspect, real world behavior.

Personally, I think the expert researcher is a myth.

I think what the Framework describes isn’t so much an expert researcher as an ideal researcher.

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What I’m looking forward to this fall semester

At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a post about the summer projects I was looking forward to and the goals I was hoping to meet during a time of year that is theoretically more quiet than the fall and spring but tends to fill up with other stuff anyway. Turns out my summer didn’t fill up with a bunch of extra stuff (though there was definitely some of that) so much as time just seemed to slip away. Still, I feel like I was able to make some pretty good progress on the projects I set for myself. I wish I could have done more or done what I did better, but I’m not unhappy with where I’ve ended up.

Now I’m looking toward the fall.Read More »

Do I change things too much, too often?

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

When  it comes to teaching, I can’t seem to stop tinkering.(1)

I’ve written about this before and usually I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’m always making changes to what I teach. Dare I say I’ve even bragged about it a little here and there. I never want to become one of those professors who teaches the exact same thing the exact same way for years on end. My thinking about information literacy is always evolving and I want my teaching to evolve with it. I think that’s a good thing.

But I never seem to be able to settle on a particular way of doing things. This might not be a problem if the changes I was making were just small tweaks here and there but in the last year or so I’ve found myself completely overhauling my course between every semester and as I race to finish creating the new content for this coming fall, I can’t help but wonder why I’m doing this to myself and whether it might be time to pull back, especially now that I have a lot of added responsibilities that should be taking priority as the new head of my department.

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What I’m reading: July 2022

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: This post contains potentially spoiler-y information for the Who? Weekly podcast and the Normal Gossip podcast, and major spoilers for Thor: Love and Thunder, Obi-Wan Kenobi (TV series), and The Summer I Turned Pretty (TV series).

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Recent interview with ALA

I’m still catching up after some recent out of office time, so instead of a new post, I thought I’d share this interview I recently did with the American Library Association about my new book. In it, I talk about some of the challenges (and surprising opportunities) related to writing a book during a global pandemic and share some of my thoughts on teaching students about the “trustworthiness” of sources.

Here’s the interview. 

Call for participation: Creative writers who do research

Are you a creative writer (published or unpublished) who writes about the role of research in your creative work? If so, I’d be interested in linking to anything you might have written on this topic or even featuring a guest post by you about it.

If you think you might be interested or have something you’d like to share, use the contact form to reach out at any time. I’d love to hear from you and I’m happy to answer any questions.

Gone fishing: Summer 2022 edition

I’m on vacation this week so I won’t be posting any new content, but below is a list of some favorite posts from this year so far in case you’d like to check out any you might have missed. Enjoy and see you in a few weeks!

What I learned writing my first book

Research is a lifetime activity

My approach to creative research for fiction writing

Isn’t all research creative? 

Concept mapping and why I don’t like to teach it

Guitar playing as creative research

Researching difficult topics for creative purposes

Why I write this blog

Employee morale and student retention

My favorite books about writing

Advice from writing books that’s getting a little old

Sometimes I call myself a professor, sometimes I call myself a librarian

What I’m reading: June 2022

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains spoilers for Horizon Forbidden West (Playstation game), Heartstopper (Netflix series), Love, Victor (sort of), Shoresy (Hulu series), Letterkenny Live, and The Heart Guy (Australian TV series).

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