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Fostering the "Art of the Question"

Fostering the "Art of the Question"While many universities require first-year students to take a course in academic writing, GW’s University Writing program stands out for the caliber of its faculty and its rigorous focus on research. The latter comes about through a close collaboration with GW’s librarians, a feature of the program since its inception.

Each section of the course has its own theme, and with each theme comes a distinct set of research opportunities. In one, students may explore medieval literature, studying scholars’ responses to Beowulf and the troubadours. In another, they learn how African-Americans were represented in nineteenth-century illustrations and photographs by studying visual history. Others investigate marketing with social media, film noir, contemporary humor, urban planning—the list goes on. But no matter the theme, students in each section pursue topics of interest with the tenacity of seasoned scholars.

As they begin this journey of discovery, GW librarians are right there with them, helping students cultivate the habits of researchers and guiding them through the vast array of resources—from scholarly books and journals to historical newspapers to complex data sets—available through the GW Libraries. With the help of GW librarians, students cultivate a critical eye, learning both how to use good information to make well-reasoned arguments, as well as how to identify what we don’t know about a subject but should. These habits of mind are essential to the kinds of scholars and citizens that GW strives to develop.

This collaboration between librarians and faculty in the University Writing Program has recently earned recognition from the Association of College & Research Libraries and been designated an Exemplary Program for Information Literacy Best Practices.

Available virtually and in person, librarians at GW work with students beyond their first year in research-intensive courses throughout the undergraduate curriculum. They also support GW’s graduate students, lead workshops on literature review, provide dissertation consultations, coteach class sessions, and consult with students outside classes. As in first-year writing, the ethos of these services is not just about success in the classroom, it’s about fostering a collaborative spirit of inquiry. As one librarian puts it, “It’s about working together to develop a shared vocabulary of knowledge and devoting ourselves to the art of the question.”

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