E314: Compare & Select Databases
A sample information literacy session plan for E314.
- Learning Outcome: Students will learn to compare specific and general databases and the catalog in order to select the most effective tool for literary research.
- Possible preparation assignment: Ask students to explore a database on their own; assign different databases to groups of the class.
- Bookstore Exercise:
This conceptual exercise begins a conversation about the difference the context and authorship of a particular research tool (database, catalog, index, encyclopedia, etc.) makes for what kind of information you’ll find there and how you’ll search for it.
- Poll the class:
You’re going home for winter break, and you want to read something you’re interested in. You’ve been so busy with school that you have no idea what’s available. To find out what you might be interested in reading, where do you go?
- A local independent bookstore (for example, Resistencia Books, BookWoman, Austin Comics, Monkeywrench Books)
- An online megabookseller like Amazon.com
- Online sites like Good Reads or social media
- PCL or APL New Books Section
- Somewhere else
- Comparing Search Tools Worksheet: Workshop with the students through these steps:
- Write down your research question.
- Describe what kinds of fields, conversations, or journals might include information relevent to your research question.
- Look at the About Pages for (and/or any other information you find about) each of the following search tools. Describe what fields and types of material each of these tools covers.
Google Scholar, Library Catalog, MLA International Bibliography, African American Newspapers (Here's an
- of About Pages for each of these tools.)
- In which of these tools would you expect to find materials most relevant to your research question? Explain why.
- Run a search in that tool.
- What was the search phrase you used?
- List two sources you found that are relevant to your research question; explain how you know each one is useful.
- Ask students to share back what they tried and engage the class in workshopping each search.
- For example, ask students to pair up with someone else who used the same research tool and share what they found, then ask a pair working on each different tool to share back with the class.
- As each pair walks the class through their research pathway, pause to talk as a group about each step in the process:
- Choosing a research tool,
- Using search terms, boolean terms, and symbols, and
- Deciding which books, articles, or other materials are "good" sources - or, revising the search.
How many of you would go to your favorite local independent bookstore? Why? (Or why not?) (Go through all the options.) Based on this conversation, what are we looking for in a good resource for finding reading? [Connect this discussion with developing criteria for choosing a search tool.]
- Informally assess the discussion in the class.
- Take up these worksheets and give the students written feedback.
- Did the students demonstrate the desired learning outcome?
- Common student challenges:
- Preferring a database that covers more fields at once rather than reflecting on and identifying fields that might address their question and looking for tools specific to those fields.
- Thinking the more results, the better rather than narrowing search terms to a more manageable list.
- Possible next session: Keeping track of citations and analyses of sources (see E314 course guide).