Type to search

Author: Madeline Ruggiero

In today’s Google Search world, many students are used to simply typing a question into their browser and looking at whatever pops up on the screen. As a result, they struggle with finding good resources through their library databases. Refining a search and discerning which resources best apply to their topic is often foreign to students. They also struggle with reading academic articles.

To address both issues at once, I collaborated with a psychology instructor to develop a tutorial on finding and reading academic work using LibWizard from Springshare. The advantage of using LibWizard to learn how to conduct a database search is that students can interact with the material in real time, allowing them to carry out the directives for finding a scientific article via an actual search through the library home page. This makes LibWizard an ideal system for teaching students information literacy as part of a class assignment, leading to practical, long-lasting learning.

Users can create LibWizard tutorials in split-screen format, with guidance appearing on one side and the library’s search system appearing on the other. The guidance can take the form of text, audio, or video. LibWizard tutorials are compatible with smartphones as the small phone screen will change the display so that the content on the right appears underneath the text and the questions appear on the left, making it user friendly for students. Creators can preview the tutorial in desktop, tablet, and mobile view to gain a sense of how students using varied devices will be viewing the information.

We decided to use a combination of in-class and online activities for the lesson. First, we gave students a class assignment that required them to use library resources. Then they went through the tutorial outside of class. The first part of the tutorial covered searching the library database (Figure 1). The left side of the screen gives students step-by-step instructions on how to format a search in a psychology database to retrieve scientific articles. The right side of the screen prompts students to navigate to the library databases with a direct link to the library homepage, where they can follow the instructions on the left while performing a database search. Students used the tutorial to learn information literacy in the context of their research assignment.

Slide showing the Queensborough Community College library "databases by subject" page on the right and instructions on how to conduct a search on the left.
Figure 1. Students follow the directions on the left of the screenshot and conduct a database search from a direct link to the library homepage on the right

The second part of the tutorial was on reading an academic article. This part consisted of seven modules, each lasting about three to five minutes. After an introductory video, the middle five modules covered the contents and key features of the five components of a scientific article, including the abstract, introduction, methods, discussion, and conclusion (Figure 2). The last module explained that reading an article from start to finish is not optimal. Instead, it is best to skim the article to find key findings and then read the article in this order:​ abstract, discussion, introduction, results, and methods (Figure 3).

Scientific article PDF appears on the right; explanation of the components of the article—that is, the abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, and conclusion—appears on the left.
Figure 2. Screengrab of module explaining the components of a scientific article
A video titled "How to Read and Comprehend Scientific Research Articles" appears at screen right. Multiple-choice questions about the video appear to the left.
Figure 3. Module explaining the best order in which to read the sections of a scientific article.

Each module was followed by a quiz that we designed for formative learning and assessment to ascertain students’ understanding. Students had to answer all four questions correctly to advance to the next part of the tutorial. They received feedback for both correct and incorrect answers. Students had an unlimited number of attempts to answer correctly. I was able to access the students’ tutorial data including the quiz results.

After students finished the tutorial, they composed a list of questions about using the library database and submitted them to the instructor, who relayed them to me. This list allowed me to customize the in-class segment to students’ needs. I then worked with students individually during class to address their needs.

Students reported finding the tutorial valuable and felt it was helpful to have something they could review. They learned how to limit their search so the database would pull up articles with a format used in scientific writing. Some struggled with limiting the search to empirical research, so I was able to spend time with those three students and give them my attention while others continued searching and printing their articles. Applied to a class assignment, the combination of a self-paced online tutorial and in-class follow-up proved ideal for teaching information literacy.

Madeline Ruggiero is a collection development librarian at Queensborough Community College, City University of New York.