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Introducing Students to Library Research


Please note the information contained in this guide is meant to help supplement a class, assignment, or curriculum. Please use the embed links or copy and paste the information into your course guide or site.

Locating information requires a combination of inquiry, discovery, and serendipity. There is no one size fits all source to find the needed information. Information discovery is nonlinear and iterative, requiring the use of a broad range of information sources and flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding is developed.

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Learning goals

  • Select an appropriate search tool based on discipline and task at hand.
  • Construct a search based on keywords and use basic search strategies.
  • Condense or expand as necessary using search string and facets.
  • Remain persistent!

Suggested assignments

  1. Ask students to choose a topic, develop key terms to search with, and use two different databases to locate information on their topic. Have them compare the results in terms of quantity, types of sources (e.g., government, educational, scholarly, commercial), order/sequence of results, and relevance. Pair students who used different databases with the same topics to compare results.
  2. Ask students to write a critique of several databases in a particular discipline, including their coverage, design, and search interface. (Students need to be pointed to a list of databases).
  3. Assign students to identify and use subject headings after conducting a keyword search; after which they write a paragraph on the differences between subject and keyword searching.
  4. Ask students to Identify and record the terms used in different databases that cover the same topic. This assignment works well, for example,  for historical and out-of-date terms for race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

Assignments for the frame Searching as Strategic Exploration from the Community of Online Research Assignments (CORA).

Related guides and tutorials

UC Research Guides

This tutorial was created at the Chemistry Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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