This article documents the students’ process of completing an exercise that required them to search the library catalog for an item of interest, find and check out the item in the library, and reflect on both the steps taken and their attitudes toward the process as a whole. The authors used qualitative analysis software as well as manual coding methods to discern themes and findings about students’ knowledge and understandings related to research and the library, and then interpreted their findings through the lenses of the IL concepts proposed and described by the Framework.
Rather than just providing a presentation on academic databases, this lesson is designed to have students demonstrate using library databases for their classmates. Working in groups, students explore an assigned database before coming up to the instructor station to demonstrate search functionality and features of the database.
This activity proceeds via Socratic questioning. The goal is to have students explain the common stumbling blocks they encounter as they look for information and as they write papers (if they have). The role of the librarian is to facilitate the discussion by providing a contextual framework for student experiences. By showing students that their research process follows a common pattern, they can make better choices about how, when, and where to look for information (e.g., not jumping straight to peer-reviewed articles when they can barely define their topic)
Additional Learning Activities
Ask students to brainstorm possible sources that might have relevant information. What tools will they need to locate those resources?
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.
Students must identify one or two important databases for the project they are working on and analyze why they consider them to be an effective resource for their research.
Ask students to choose a topic, develop key search terms, and use two different search engines to locate information on their topic. Have them compare the results in terms of quantity, types of sources (e.g., government, educational, scholarly, and commercial), order/sequence of results, and relevance. Pair students who used the same search engine with different topics to compare results.
Ask students to write an I-Search paper, whereby they journal their searching processes, including key terms, tools used, and resources/results at each step. They should note how they evaluated their resources, and what information was extracted. Their journal should also reflect their feelings: success, concern, frustration, pride, etc. Pair up students, and ask them to read and comment on each other's journal, and then draw up conclusions and recommendations for their peers.