Knowledge Handler

Information Sources & Information Sifting Techniques

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Location: Independence, Ohio, United States

Librarian at Indiana Wesleyan University's Cleveland Education Center.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Getting to Subject Terms

Many people limit themselves to keyword or phrase searching because their daily use of Google and Yahoo have conditioned them to use this type of search. When showing students how to use commercial databases, I first show them a keyword search, and then show them how a "phrase search" is more targeted. Finally, I point out the subject terms in a relevant record, and then demonstrate how subject searching uncovers results that are more relevant [and sometimes more plentiful] than keyword searching.

The reason I have hit on this approach rather than teaching the use of the database thesaurus is that I want to want to build on what the students already know. Doing a keyword search initially will immediately provide some results to demonstrate that the database stores the type of information that they need, as opposed to the multistep process of searching a thesarus for subject terms and then doing a search.

This pattern of teaching is based on having live internet connections available and therefore providing students the freedom to select a subject they the instructor to research. In this environment, I find that beginning students are bored if time is spent [initially "unproductively" in their minds] fishing for terms in the thesaurus. If I was simply teaching from a canned PowerPoint™ I could eliminate the foraging in the thesaurus, because the search recorded in PowerPoint™ would have eliminated any failures in finding subject terms on the first try.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Specialized Indexes

A specialized index like is very useful to those who know of its existence. For quickly finding a passage when I don't recall its chapter and verse reference, Bible Gateway is a lot easier to use when I am sitting at my computer than going to the shelf and thumbing through Strong's Concordance. And if I do need the referencing of Strong's, I can now use a tool like to provide many of the notes. The biggest problem with such specialized tools is becoming aware of their existence, since they will not acheive the name recognition of a general interest product such as Google.