Reference Interview

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


"Have you done any research on this before?"

"Yeah, a little bit."

"Great, can you tell me what you've done?"

"I searched for mining and plant life in the database, but that gave me a lot of irrelevant stuff."

"How about we try searching in a subject database? This way, the results will be relevant."

"That sounds great. How do I do that?"

"I'll be happy to walk you through it! Let me try a few searches first, and we'll get started."


"So I found a lot of great stuff! Let's go through it together ... "


Before you begin searching for sources or guide them through that process, ask what the patron has already tried, then construct a competent strategy based on that.

When searching:

  • Explain search strategy to a patron and offer pointers, detailed search paths, and names of resources to find the answer so patron can answer similar questions on their own when appropriate
    • Try search BEFORE leading patron through search
  • Offer multiple strategies
  • Recognize when to make a referral
    • Making a referral does not mean you have failed the patron. In fact, it means you are showing more resources to that patron and fostering a relationship between them and a subject specialist
  • Ask the patron if you've fully answered their question, and ask if additional information is needed
    • Offer to accompany patron in the search for more items


Helpful Links

Marriott Library Eccles Library Quinney Law Library