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Survey of modern language research guides: a window on disciplinary information literacy

Carl A. Lehnen (University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Terri Artemchik (Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 10 October 2018

Issue publication date: 21 November 2018




This study aims to use research guides as a window to disciplinary information literacy in the field of modern language studies from a librarian’s point of view. Informed by literature on disciplinary research practices and on library research guides, it analyzes how librarians represent, and teach, an especially rich and multifaceted information landscape.


Researchers analyzed the topical coverage, organization, resource emphasis and instructional content of 182 research guides in the field of modern language studies. Data were collected both manually and automatically using a Web scraper. Data were then coded using categories developed by the authors.


Guides focused on language and literature topics, with some interdisciplinary coverage. Guides tended to focus on resources and formats rather than user tasks or instruction. Over two thirds of guides included some type of instruction, primarily focused on locating resources, and a slim majority of instructional topics were specific to modern language studies.

Research limitations/implications

Looking at guides from another field would have allowed for cross-disciplinary comparisons. It is possible that including guides from additional languages or universities would have given different results.


Although there is significant literature on research guides, few have analyzed how they reflect what information literacy looks like in a particular discipline. This study also contributes to research on information literacy instruction for modern languages and recommends that it be informed by an understanding of disciplinary research practices.



Lehnen, C.A. and Artemchik, T. (2018), "Survey of modern language research guides: a window on disciplinary information literacy", Reference Services Review, Vol. 46 No. 4, pp. 463-478.



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