Schmidt, R. K., Giordano, E., Schmidt, G., & Kuhlthau, C. C. (2015.). A guided inquiry approach to teaching the humanities research project. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Summary and Response:
This book is a really comprehensive guide towards introducing a humanities research project as a collaboration between TL and classroom teacher, whereby student, TL, and teacher are “each…a partner to the others” (p.8). The students are guided through the process of understanding the purpose of the research paper – to draw their own conclusions by looking at a variety sources from various formats. Students are provided with a choice of pathways to hunt for information in which they may either begin with reference materials if they already have a topic in mind or they can begin with magazine articles and examining their own interests in order to identify a possible topic of cultural significance to research.
Students are guided through how to interrogate types of sources, including 11 questions to ask when looking at primary source, 11 more for a secondary source, and 11 for the tertiary source. These questions aim to help students build a sense of how to locate bias, understand the influence of perspective, how inclusion or exclusion of information play a role in this, how to interpret user-generated comments, and more. Ultimately students are also provided with a more extensive set of questions to use to interrogate 16 formats, including pottery, an allusion, a garment, graph, musical performance and so on. Students are encouraged to look beyond print sources for their research, and they are also encouraged to write their own questions for these and other source formats. I find these interrogations very helpful myself, and many of the questions they provide for a student examining a pottery sherd are questions I would have done well to consider years ago, not only as a student, but as a teacher. Reading the questions they pose provides a paradigm for the types of questions one might ask in encountering a variety of artifacts and print genres.
As with the other two books by Schmidt I have read and reviewed here, students are carefully guided through the outlining and organizing of their information into a final product. Even within this guidance, students are encourage to find a system for tagging, sorting, and ultimately organizing information that makes the most sense to each individual student.
Ultimately, the book paves the way for great collaboration between students, teachers, and librarians. There are many aspects of the research process that I recognize in my own process, but have never quite articulated so explicitly to myself. Her work always strikes a balance between explicit guidance and freedom that I find nearly perfect. The projects are time-consuming, but if I can find more teachers to collaborate on these projects, I feel it will be really transformative for all of us.