March 23, 2007
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I’ve been having an interesting email discussion on the issue of how to teach students to do efficient and productive searches for academic literature in online databases. The discussion doesn’t relate to teaching the technical mechanics, but to teaching the conceptual strategies that underlie searching: we’re trying to respond to situations in which students will point, click and type in all the appropriate places, but then return to report things like “I can’t find any articles on the environment”.
Since I teach across a variety of methods courses, I run into this issue all the time – and, I have to confess, have a tendency to punt on it by referring the students to the library staff for help with search strategies. But we’re trying to figure out the best way to tackle the problem without… er… outsourcing…
Our discussion, however, is suffering from serious sample bias: everyone is a nerd, and therefore finds this sort of thing a bit too natural: none of us can really remember learning to do searches, and we are therefore struggling to figure out where the process breaks down, and what we need to do, in order to make the whole thing less abstract. And, since we’re all nerds, at some point I speculated about whether more time spent on text adventure games as a child might have made learning this whole search concept easier. And, of course, given my interlocutors, I immediately got back:
You are in a maze of twisting little library stacks all alike.
Exits are N, S, E, W.
> find research
I do not know how to ‘find research’