LIBR 244-10
LIBR 244-11
Online Searching
Summer 2011 Greensheet

Amelia Kassel
Virtual Office:  Contact via e-mail

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Software
Course Requirements
iSchool eBookstore

The Greensheet is a course syllabus which may be revised before or during the semester.

The first day of class is Monday, June 6th. This course will be available on D2L on Monday, June 6th. You will be enrolled into the site automatically. I will send more information about course access as we approach this date through MySJSU.

Course Description

This course introduces students to and focuses on search techniques and content for fee-based databases contained in Dialog, Factiva, and LexisNexis, known in the traditional information industry as the Big Three aggregators and also considered part of the Deep Web. These search systems are particularly useful to information professionals in corporations, government agencies, law firms, and other business settings because of powerful search capabilities, diverse sources that are searchable across multiple databases at one time, and precision search features that enhance productivity. The knowledge gleaned from this course is applicable in any setting where librarians answer questions, conduct research, or train others how to search, including public, school, academic, and special libraries. Learning how to formulate search strategies within the Big Three builds a solid foundation for achieving better search results when using a range of subscription search systems offered by libraries as well as for searching the Internet.  The course also covers ways to improve Internet searching.

Through readings, discussions, and exercises, students will work with and compare the Big Three to Internet search engines, tools, and sources. Course topics include the history of the online information industry, current trends, and pricing issues.

Course Prerequisites: LIBR 202 required.

Course Objectives

LIBR 244 supports the following MLIS Core Competencies:

  • Design, query and evaluate information retrieval systems;
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the use of current information and communication technologies, and other related technologies, as they affect the resources and uses of libraries and other types of information providing entities.

In addition, this section supports the following SLIS Core Competencies

  • Use service concepts, principles and techniques that facilitate information access, relevance, and accuracy for individuals or groups of users;
  • Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for group work, collaborations and professional level presentations.

Student Learning Outcomes
Students will learn:

  • The basics of three major fee-based aggregator systems including:
    • Content, search language, and syntax
    • Effective search strategies and techniques
    • The value and role of fee-based database aggregators in obtaining precision results quickly and efficiently
    • How knowledge of database aggregator systems increases the quality of Internet research
  • Quality Internet search tools and techniques
  • Ideas and skills applicable to assisting and training end users

Course Requirements

Students are expected to check for annoucements posted to D2L News and stay up-to-date with all discussion threads. Students are required to complete the following assignments:

  • Readings: Read and discuss required books and articles, some of which will be assigned throughout the semester.
  • Online Discussion: Students are required to participate minimally one time a week in online discussions via D2L by adding thoughtful, substantive comments or questions that relate to the reading material and other assignments and to interact with other students. Detailed class discussion requirements will be posted at the beginning of the semester.  Class discussion participation is 20% of the grade. Lack of satisfactory participation will automatically result in a grade below a B.
  • Exercises: A series of questions in which you perform online searches will be posted with specific instructions about each assignment.
  • Final Research Report: Prepare a formal report of eight to ten pages in length plus a list of sources used about an online research topic of interest to you. Follow APA style and all the rules of good grammar and syntax. Use Times Roman 12 or Arial 11 typeface and double space your report. Include an abstract with your name on the title page.  Submit the file to me at as a Word file with the paper title as the name of the file. The final research report is due the last day of class, Friday, August 12th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time.  Label your email subject header with the title of your report.  You're expected to use the Big Three databases learned during the semester to research your final report.  If Big Three databases do not produce information about your topic, you may use other sources and databases. Should that be the case, provide an introduction explaining why the Big Three did not work for you and include your search strategies. Add an appendix that inlcudes which database(s) or sources you used along with search strategies tried.  A minimum of eight citations, five of which should be within the past two years to current are required to document your research.  Older citations are acceptable when applicable or if current information is not available but you must explain reasons for lack of current information in your introduction.

Exercise Schedule
Dates are subject to change with fair notice. 

Exercise 1 Due June 22, 2011
Exercise 2 Due July 6, 2011
Exercise 3 Due July 20, 2011
Exercise 4 Due August 1, 2011
Exercise 5 Due August 12, 2011

Course Grading
Completing all assignments accurately and on time and participating in class discussion according to instructions will earn a grade of B. To raise this grade, you will need to demonstrate above average creativity, imagination, analysis, and scholarship including:

  • Originality in the approach to assignments
  • Greater depth of analysis than assignments call for
  • Superior organizational and/or written skills in the presentation of the material

Scores are assigned to each required category:

Exercises 12 Points Each (Total: 60 Points)
Participation in Class Discussion 20 Points
Final Research Paper 20 Points

Grading for exercises is based on a combination of:

  • Following all instructions, which is key to this course.
  • Evidence that you’re learning basic commands and syntax, reflected in your work.
  • Your comments contained in a summary that includes an analysis of your strategies, findings, and lessons learned. You must integrate what you've learned from readings and class discussion within your summaries and cite your sources. Summaries are to be written in a narrative format. Bullets or numbered sections within the narrative are acceptable. The summaries should be a minimum of two to three paragraphs in length and can be more.
  • Finding relevant results.
  • Evidence of experimenting with varying search strategies is necessary.

Late Assignments
Late assignments are not accepted.  If you have a life-threatening medical emergency or a family tradegy, please contact me.  A letter from your physician is required for medical emergencies.

Extra credit is not available.

Successful students will:

  • Post a brief bio and statement of purpose during the first week of class.
  • Read the required textbooks and other assignments
  • Initiate and respond to discussion postings with substantive and analytical comments and questions.
  • Integrate knowledge from readings and class discussion into all assignments by quoting and citing sources.

Other Requirements
The following are high quality guides from the major vendors we'll study this semester. Read or scan through these and refer back to on an "as needed" basis. All of the items can be downloaded at no charge.

Textbooks and Software

Dialog                                                                                                                                  Dialog offers a range of instructional materials through its Graduate Education Program at Review available sources and select those most useful to you. I've listed those I consider of particular value below; students may find others useful too and post your recommendations to the Angel discussion board to discuss with one another.

LexisNexis Manual (available in the Content area of D2L under Course Documents.) Inside Out Guide (available in the Content area of D2L under Course Documents.)

Additional Readings

  • Kassel, Amelia. DialogClassic Web, Re-Designed: A Hit! Searcher, May 2007(available in the Content area of D2L under Course Documents.)
  • Other readings or references to websites will be assigned throughout the semester.

Additional Comments

  1. This is a technical and challenging course because you will be learning new ways to search.  The course requires consistent and regular attention to all class discussion postings, preparation, and careful attention to following all instructions.
  2. A survey found that students spend between 8 and 25 hours on this course per week. 
  3. Students taking more than one or two courses and having other responsibilities may find this course too time-consuming to adequately meet all requirements for an A and several students have had problems earning a B grade.
  4. Lack of satisfactory participation in class discussion results in a grade lower than a B.
  5. All students are graded on the same basis regardless of workload, personal, medical, or technical problems, which are each student’s responsibility.
  6. Because there are many search questions used to teach this course and there isn’t necessarily one correct answer or approach to online research, students will be required to read and study documents posted to D2L with tips and corrections for some exercise sets and discuss questions and answers during Class Discussion.
  7. One-on-one answers for all exercise questions returned by email are not provided. If a student continues to have questions about his/her work, post to class discussion; if you have a question, others may too.  For questions of a personal nature, email me at
  8. Please make yourself aware of SJSU drop dates and policies. Even if past the regular drop date, it may be better to drop late than receive a grade below a B.
  9. Incompletes will not be awarded, no exceptions.
  10. This is a full semester course compressed into a 10 week summer session and the same requirements and standards are applied to this course as for Fall and Spring.

Required Textbooks:

  • Hock, R. (2010). The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook (3rd ed.). Information Today. Available through Amazon: 0910965846. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Mann, T. (2005). Oxford Guide to Library Research (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. Available through Amazon: 0195189981. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Bell, S. S. (2009). Librarian's Guide to Online Searching (2nd ed.). Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1591587638. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation.  You must repeat the class the following semester. If -on the second attempt- you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

General Expectations, Rights and Responsibilities of the Student

As members of the academic community, students accept both the rights and responsibilities incumbent upon all members of the institution. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with SJSU's policies and practices pertaining to the procedures to follow if and when questions or concerns about a class arises. See University Policy S90-5 at More detailed information on a variety of related topics is available in the SJSU catalog at In general, it is recommended that students begin by seeking clarification or discussing concerns with their instructor. If such conversation is not possible, or if it does not serve to address the issue, it is recommended that the student contact the Department Chair as a next step.

Dropping and Adding

Students are responsible for understanding the policies and procedures about add/drop, grade forgiveness, etc. Refer to the current semester's Catalog Policies section at Add/drop deadlines can be found on the current academic year calendars document on the Academic Calendars webpage at The Late Drop Policy is available at Students should be aware of the current deadlines and penalties for dropping classes.

Information about the latest changes and news is available at the Advising Hub at

Consent for Recording of Class and Public Sharing of Instructor Material

University Policy S12-7,, requires students to obtain instructor's permission to record the course and the following items to be included in the syllabus:

  • "Common courtesy and professional behavior dictate that you notify someone when you are recording him/her. You must obtain the instructor's permission to make audio or video recordings in this class. Such permission allows the recordings to be used for your private, study purposes only. The recordings are the intellectual property of the instructor; you have not been given any rights to reproduce or distribute the material."
    • It is suggested that the syllabus include the instructor's process for granting permission, whether in writing or orally and whether for the whole semester or on a class by class basis.
    • In classes where active participation of students or guests may be on the recording, permission of those students or guests should be obtained as well.
  • "Course material developed by the instructor is the intellectual property of the instructor and cannot be shared publicly without his/her approval. You may not publicly share or upload instructor generated material for this course such as exam questions, lecture notes, or homework solutions without instructor consent."

Academic integrity

Your commitment, as a student, to learning is evidenced by your enrollment at San Jose State University. The University Academic Integrity Policy F15-7 at requires you to be honest in all your academic course work. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The Student Conduct and Ethical Development website is available at

Campus Policy in Compliance with the American Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 at requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at to establish a record of their disability.

icon showing link leads to the PDF file viewer known as Acrobat Reader Download Adobe Acrobat Reader to access PDF files.

More accessibility resources.