Clarifying is a technique you can use when you are further along in the reference interview. Remember, you begin the interview with paraphrasing and open questions. But you may need to clarify a point by asking for a particular bit of information. While clarifying is not one of the six model reference behaviors, it is a form of verifying the patronís real information need.

For example you may have discovered that the patron wants pictures of Nevada for a presentation. What you need to find out before you proceed whether they need color or black and white and whether the patron needs slides, video, or print pictures. You can get to that information most effectively by asking clarifying questions specifically asking for a particular bit of information.

Remember to use clarifying questions late in the reference interview process to gather specific information or to simplify choices.

Examples of clarifying questions

  1. The latest statistic here is 2001. Is that current enough or do you need more recent figures?

  2. Do you need the addresses of computer manufacturers for all states, or only for Minnesota?

  3. Would you prefer the opera on a phonograph record, audiocassette, compact disc or video?

  4. Does that picture need to be in color, or will black and white do?

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This page was last updated on April 28, 2003.