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Teaching “format as a process” in an era of Web-scale discovery

Kevin Patrick Seeber (Colorado State University-Pueblo)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




This paper aims to present academic librarians with a framework for teaching and assessing information literacy in response to advancements in online discovery. Advancements in online discovery require academic librarians to develop new means of teaching and assessing information literacy, with an emphasis on having students use critical thinking to evaluate sources.


This conceptual paper analyzes how the threshold concept “format as a process” could be incorporated into information literacy instruction sessions which address Web-scale discovery services and other online search tools. General guidelines for applying this concept are included, along with potential classroom activities and assessments.


Format as a process provides a valuable framework for evaluating information, though librarians need to be mindful of how they present the concept to students. Instruction must be focused on fostering critical thinking skills, rather than how to perform tasks, and assessment must be qualitative in nature.

Practical implications

These changes in online searching mean that information literacy programs will need to alter their approach to instruction and move beyond the “one shot” paradigm. Critical evaluation is a sustainable, lifelong skill which will continue to serve students after graduation, but developing that ability requires academic librarians to fulfill new roles in the classroom and on campus.


The literature surrounding instruction of Web-scale discovery is still limited, and does not incorporate the threshold concepts provided in Association of College and Research Libraries Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education. This paper concentrates on one such concept, as well as discusses how future concepts could be addressed.



The author gives many thanks to Professors Sandy Hudock and Jessica Critten for their perennial guidance, feedback and support.


Seeber, K.P. (2015), "Teaching “format as a process” in an era of Web-scale discovery", Reference Services Review, Vol. 43 No. 1, pp. 19-30.



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