INFO 244-10
Online Searching
Fall 2017 Syllabus

M. Ziemer
Phone (mobile): 
available to enrolled students
Office location:
Chicago, IL (virtual)
Office Hours: As available via Blackboard IM or Skype and by appointment.

Syllabus Links
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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 23rd at 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

This course covers techniques of searching and managing on-line search services. It includes searching strategies, evaluation of database structures, and implementation and management of search services and on-line experience.

Emphasis is on the ProQuest platform, with additional coverage and comparisons to other subscription database services and to free, web search engines such as Google. Learning how to formulate search strategies using fee-based search services builds a solid foundation in critical concepts for achieving better search results when using any commercial search service, as well as using advanced features offered by web search engines.

The knowledge gained 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 on these powerful commercial services builds a solid foundation for achieving better search results when using a range of subscription search systems as well as for searching the web search engines.

Topics include searching techniques and strategies, database indexing, evaluation of search services, and understanding the relationship between database structure and effective search techniques. Relevant professional literature will be explored to help students gain familiarity with issues in the online information industry.

Course Requirements


  • Exercises
    These are assigned exercises requiring searches of commercial search engines. Grading will be based on the student’s search strategies, thought processes and results of the searches. Supports CLOs 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8
  • Quizzes
    These will test understanding of search systems and concepts covered in the course. Supports CLOs 2, 3, 4, 8
  • Online Discussion
    Participation in discussions is an important component of online classes. Students are expected to post (at least) three comments on each discussion topic, one an original contribution and the others responses to another student’s post. Students are expected to check in on discussions every other day, and read all posts. Note that participation is 20% of your grade, so non-participation will automatically reduce your grade to a B or below. Supports CLOs 1, 4, 5, 8
  • Training Guide
    Students will create a training piece for a specific user group on a product of their choice. Students can choose to create a document such as a reference guide, a screencast or tutorial, or a website or LibGuide. Supports CLOs 1, 2, 6, 7, 8
  • Final Project
    Students will write an essay (8-10 pages, double-spaced) on a key conceptual take-away from the course or on a topic related to online searching. Supports CLOs 1, 4, 5, 6

Course Calendar
Assignment due dates are posted in Canvas, and are subject to change with reasonable notice.


Assignment Percent of Total Grade
Search Assignments/Quizzes 40
Discussions & Participation 20
Final Project 25
Training Guide 15
Total 100


Late Work
Late work will not be accepted unless the student has discussed extenuating circumstances with the instructor in advance of the due date.

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.). Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 161069998Xarrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Mann, T. (2015). The Oxford guide to library research (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. Available through Amazon: 0199931062arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Berkman, R. (2015). Find it fast: Extracting expert information from social networks, big data, tweets, and more (6th ed.). Information Today. Available through Amazon: 1937290042arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Vaidhyanathan, S. (2011). The googlization of everything: And why we should worry. University of California Press. Available through Amazon: 0520258827 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 or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — 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.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 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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