Reference Interview

This guide gives a basic overview of the reference interview for faculty and staff at the Marriott Library.


"I need articles about mining and the environment."

"That's a really interesting topic! Can you tell me what in particular about mining and the environment you're researching?"

"I'm writing a paper on how large-scale mining operations affect local plant life."

"Awesome! Just to make sure I understand, you are wanting articles about how large-scale mining can affect local plant life?"

"Yep! And they need to be scholarly."

"Do you have any particular mining operations or geographic areas in mind?"

"Yes, the state of Utah."

"And do you have any particular plants or kinds of plants in mind?"

"Yeah, I think I want to focus mainly on trees."

"Great. Let's search for some articles."

Listening and Inquiring

During a successful reference interaction, the librarian communicates in a receptive and supportive manner and allows the patron to fully state their information in their own words before responding.

After the patron has fully stated their need, identify the goals and objectives of their research and rephrase the question. Doing this helps to show that you care about understanding their question correctly. Ask them if you have understood correctly.

Here are some tips:

  • Avoid jargon!
  • Use open-ended questions to encourage the patron to expand their question
    • Ask only one question at a time, as to not overwhelm the patron or allow them to not answer
  • Maintain objectivity and do not interject value judgments about the subject or transaction
  • Respect the patron's privacy and maintain that confidentiality after the transaction


Helpful Links

Marriott Library Eccles Library Quinney Law Library