Journal Database Searching: Advanced

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Name: Patricia Herrling
Title: Information Services/User Education Coordinator
Institution: Steenbock Library, UW-Madison
Street Address: 550 Babcock Drive
City/State/Zip: Madison, WI 53706
Phone: 608-263-6373
Fax: 608-263-3221

Title of practice or implementation method: Journal Database Searching Exercise using Advanced Techniques

Primary audience: Undergraduates in the life sciences who have completed initial information literacy component that covers the library system and basic resources.

Describe the practice:

This instructional session was developed for an introductory biology course in conjunction with the course's faculty member and focuses on research-oriented resources and critical evaluation skills. There are three library-related assignments in their lab manual: 1) Evaluating references, 2) Searching the library catalog for background materials, and 3) Searching journal databases for background materials. Students come to the library, grouped by lab section (20-25 students), over the course of a week, shortly before their paper is due. The primary focus for the in-library session is on the journal database assignment.

The session begins with a 60-minute demonstration/discussion reviewing basic techniques, then advanced searching skills, database selection and example searches. Students select a journal database and formulate, on paper, an appropriate search strategy for their chosen topic. Students then move to computers and enter their searches. They are required to narrow (or expand) initial search results using the techniques demonstrated to about 20 references. The advanced strategies include applying limits, using proximity operators, or field searching such as requiring key concepts in the article title. Two librarians are available to answer questions and suggest alternative search strategies. The lab teaching assistant is also present to assist with topic-related questions. The students evaluate the set of 20 results and answer a series of questions related to sources. They identify the three best references and make a print out. One of the referenced articles will need to be copied and incorporated into the assigned paper. This requires them to also locate the journal on campus.

Competencies addressed through this practice:
2. Identify and select appropriate information sources.
3. Formulate and efficiently execute search queries appropriate for the information resource.
4. Interpret and analyze search results and select relevant sources.
5. Locate and retrieve relevant sources in a variety of formats from the global information environment.
6. Critically evaluate the information retrieved.
7. Organize, synthesize, integrate and apply the information.
8. Self-assess the information-seeking processes used.

Supporting materials/resources used and their format:

Handouts on search strategy development, database descriptions, locating journals on campus. Slide show used in the past: b152/index.htm

Special requirements to use these resources:

References consulted: