When assisting students with their research, pointing to the library’s databases and recommending search terms isn’t always the best place to start, especially if the search results are too specific for the student’s needs. In this session, the librarian works with the student to determine the effectiveness of a database search, suggesting more general resources (encyclopedias, etc). The student was delighted and commented (in the post-session survey): “The person I talked to was extremely helpful! I figured they would just give me advice, but this person actually helped me research! Definitely above and beyond what I expected."
The complete session (anonymized) is below:
Patron: Hello. I'm trying to find a relevant article about a specific organism for my Microbiology paper that isn't as in depth as an analysis of its makeup. Do you have any suggestions to narrow down the results? Thanks in advance!
Librarian: Hello! Just a moment while I look at your question.
Librarian: I'm looking at a list of databases accessible to [name of patron’s library], and I'm wondering which one's you've already tried ...?
Patron: I'm currently on EBSCOHost; I haven't used any of the other databases before.
Librarian: EBSCO is a vendor of databases, not a database, were you in Academic Search Premier by chance?
Librarian: your complete database list is here: http://www.Library.edu/databases
Librarian: I'm think that overviews might be more useful for you than journal articles, which focus on narrow aspects of topics - can you use online reference works, for example?
Patron: Yep! Sorry, I normally don't use these, but I've been having trouble finding information on this organism in general, including a general websearch. I didn't notice the top of the screen said Academic Search Premier.
Librarian: the Oxford Reference online sounds like it might offer subject encyclopedias that would give you an overview of microorganisms
Librarian: what is your specific genus and species name?
Patron: In response to the second question, yes, my professor just asked us to use credible sources, so I thought searching on be would be a good idea, but they're a tad more in-depth than I need.
Patron: Okay, thank you! My organism is Micrococcus luteus.
Librarian: ok, hang on ...
Librarian: The Oxford entries were not specific to that organism, except a couple of brief references
Librarian: I notice you have access to Scientific American online; their articles tend to be comprehensible to educated readers without advanced degrees, you could try that next (keyword searching by genus and species)
Patron: I checked as well and the only results I found were the genus, not the species (which I can use as well) but they require a paid membership.
Librarian: they shouldn't require a paid membership if you start at your library's database page: http://www.library.edu/databases
Librarian: you should be able to get into any database there with your ID and PIN, as explained on this page: http://library.edu/PINs
Librarian: I might try ProQuest next, although many of their articles are also highly technical - some are not
Patron: Oh, okay, thank you! I wasn't aware of that.
Librarian: hang on, still looking ...
Librarian: I tried ProQuest, and found over 20 articles with m. luteus as a "subject" (better than searching keywords) but all were rather narrow focus research articles
Librarian: is there a common name for the micro-organism, or something that makes it interesting to laypeople?
Librarian: Wikipedia doesn't seem to think so ... (you can't use them as a source, of course)
Patron: I'm searching through Scientific American and haven't found anything so far. Unfortunately, no really. It's a pretty common microbe, as in it's always on our skin, and doesn't do much unless the person is immuncompromised. The most interesting fact I've found is that is causes the odor in stinky feet.
Librarian: that is interesting, I'm thinking general science magazines (like New Scientist, Discover, or Science News) might mention it in relation to recent discoveries
Librarian: to find those, I'd normally use the big aggregrate databases like Academic Search Premier or ProQuest, but you could try other all-topic databases in the library’s database list
Librarian: perhaps the health-related databases
Patron: Okay, I'll start searching some of those then. Thank you! The only website I could come up with was the CDC and they didn't have much unfortunately. I was just at a loss of where to look.
Librarian: in EBSCO you can do a combined database search, and that it improves your chances with obscure topics; look for the "choose databases" link after the database name (top left) of the advanced search screen
Librarian: you'll probably have to wade through a bunch of highly technical citations and abstracts until you can find one that is more general and comprehensible. For general overviews of scientific topics, I usually recommend science (or biology in this case) encyclopedias, which are often in print in the library
Librarian: they're considered credible, if not quite peer-reviewed
Librarian: with this topic, all I'm finding tonight are highly technical research articles that won't give an overview
Librarian: wait, you have Grzimek's online, that might help
Patron: I think my professor was mainly hinting that she would not be impressed if we used Wikipedia as a source. She didn't seem overly concerned with where it came from, as long as the facts were right. I noticed, the combined databases pulled up over 4,000 results. I never would have thought of a biology encyclopedia, that's a great idea! That was my problem with Academic Search Premier. My target audience is supposed to be someone who has never taken Microbiology, so I have to simplify everything I come across.
Librarian: that explains some things (virtually no instructors like Wikipedia as a source, incidentally)
Librarian: The Grzimek's didn't work because a bacterium isn't an animal
Librarian: you might also try textbooks (but probably not the one used in your class)
Librarian: they tend to simplify and generalize a bit
Patron: I can see why, I've gotten some bad (or just incomplete) information from Wikipedia before, but it's occasionally nice for a brief overview. I tried my class textbook, but like you said, it was too generalized for my purpose. Very true, thank you for all of your help!
Librarian: You’re welcome. I hope the session was helpful and that you'll use this service again soon! If you provided an email, you will receive a transcript of this session shortly. You may also see a link to a survey, which you may use to rate this service. Thanks!
Librarian coded session for Follow Up
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