When I recently sold a vintage glass dish, I saw how one simple transaction involves many tasks behind the task. So do many research activities.
Before traveling with a fragile dish I checked that the dealer would want it. First I staged the piece. Then I took a picture. Then I showed it to the dealer. Once he expressed interest, I had a new set of tasks: washing the dish, packing it safely, etc. Let’s not forget looking up prices.
Seemingly basic research tasks also involve sub-tasks or background knowledge. For example finding a journal article involves locating an article database, not to mention knowing what a journal article is in the first place.
I don’t wish to reduce research to tasks or skills. All the same research involves some tasks. Hinchliffe (2016) notes that “we need the answer to the question ‘what will a. . .student be able to do?’ ” (para. 9). Thinking of the tasks behind the tasks can help us plan research instruction.
Hinchliffe, L. J. (2016, June 19). The ACRL information literacy constellation [Blog post]. Retrieved