INFO 244-11
Online Searching
Fall 2016 Syllabus

Tobie Garrick
Office location: Canberra, Australia
Office Hours: Primarily via BbIM (Collaborate or Skype also available), 7pm PST Wednesdays. Appointments at other times available upon request.  

Syllabus Links
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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 24th, 6 am PDT unless you are taking an intensive or a one unit or two unit class that starts on a different day. In that case the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

You will be enrolled into the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

The course covers techniques of online searching, understanding database structures, hands-on search experience on commercial search services and client education. Emphasis is on the ProQuest system, with coverage of LexisNexis and Web of Science. The skills and knowledge acquired in this course are transferrable to a wide range of databases and other online search tools, across all sectors of the library and information management profession.

Topics will include:

  • Search techniques and strategies including concept analysis, search syntax, pearl building and citation chaining
  • Database indexing
  • Relationship between database structures and effective search techniques
  • Choosing your search tool
  • Database analysis
  • General online searching
  • Web-scale discovery

Students are encouraged to actively participate and work to create a learning community with their course peers. In addition to weekly readings from professional literature, this course will feature brief weekly recorded lectures and demos, vendor-run demos of commercial databases and activities that will provide experience in searching and engage you in thinking about and working with the course materials. The majority of the course will be delivered asynchronously.

Course Requirements

General Requirements

  • Sign up for the ProQuest Graduate Education Program in the first week of class (details will be available in Canvas). Access is free to enrolled MLIS students and mandatory for completing the coursework
  • Watch recordings of vendor training sessions on the use of ProQuest, Web of Science and LexisNexis
  • Check the course site daily and actively engage in discussions and forums

Assignments and Grading

Assignment Description CLOs Percent of Final Grade
Exercises Exercises require searches of commercial databases. Search strategy, search results and demonstration of process used in searching will determine grade  1,2, 30%
Quizzes These will provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate and solidify understanding of concepts covered throughout the course 2,3,4,8 5%
Video Tutorial Students will develop 1 brief (3-5 mins) video tutorial on a key concept of the course.
This can be pre-recorded using a variety of different software and formats
1,2,5,6,7 20%
Final Project Students will choose from three options: 1) an essay on a topic related to online searching; 2) a client project; 3) a training packet for a specified user group on search techniques and concepts 1,4,6,7,8 30%
Online Discussions Students will post 2-3 posts per discussion topic (at least one original post and one response to a peer). Posts should contribute to the learning outcomes of the class as a whole. 1,4,5,8 15%

Late Assignments
Late assignments will not be accepted, unless there are legitimate, mitigating circumstances that have been communicated to the instructor prior to the due date. All assignments are due Tuesdays at 11:59 PT.

Course Calendar
A course calendar will be provided in the Canvas site

Communication with the Lecturer
Of course, I am available via email and through the course site. I endeavor to respond within 24 hours. Because I am overseas, synchronous communication will be via BbIM, Collaborate or Skype rather than by phone and may need to be scheduled in advance.

Textbook Availability
Bell, S. (2012). Librarian's guide to online searching. (3rd ed.), Mann, T. (2015). The Oxford Guide to Library Research (2nd ed.) and Hock, R. (2013). The extreme searcher's internet handbook: A guide for the serious searcher (4th ed.) are available as eBooks through SJSU's King Library. 

Additional Readings
Readings, system documentation from search service vendors, and other supporting materials will be available on the course site.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 202

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a broad understanding of the design of major fee-based online databases and how to search them effectively.
  2. Describe database content, search language, and syntax.
  3. Apply effective search strategies and techniques, with a focus on concept analysis and pearl building.
  4. Identify the value and role of fee-based database aggregators in obtaining precision results quickly and efficiently.
  5. Understand how knowledge of database aggregator systems increases the quality of Internet research.
  6. Use quality Internet search tools and techniques.
  7. Demonstrate skills and knowledge applicable to assisting and training end users.
  8. Develop confidence in their ability to learn to search other databases or online systems similar to those covered in the course.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 244 supports the following core competencies:

  1. E Design, query, and evaluate information retrieval systems.
  2. H Demonstrate proficiency in identifying, using, and evaluating current and emerging information and communication technologies.


Required Textbooks:

  • Bell, S. (2015). Librarian's guide to online searching (4th ed.). Santa Barabara, CA: Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 161069998Xarrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Hock, R. (2013). The extreme searcher's internet handbook: A guide for the serious searcher (4th ed.). Medford, NJ: Information Today. Available through Amazon: 1937290026arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Mann, T. (2015). The Oxford guide to library research (4th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Available through Amazon: 0199931062arrow 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 or Informatics) — 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 if you wish to stay in the program. 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

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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