INFO 244-10 
INFO 244-11
Online Searching
Spring 2021 Syllabus

Vicki Steiner
Office Hours: By appointment via e-mail ( Please use INFO 244 in the subject line of all e-mail messages.

Syllabus Links
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iSchool eBookstore

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning January 27, at approximately 6:00 a.m. PT 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 in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

This course focuses on techniques and concepts for effective research online, including search strategies, evaluation of database content, exploration of search options, and understanding the information environment. The course includes extensive, hands-on experience with subscription database services, including Dialog, Web of Science, and Westlaw, and comparison of commercial search engines with free, web search engines, such as Google.

The knowledge you will gain in this course is applicable in any setting in which information professionals answer questions, conduct research, train others to conduct research, or work with database content and information retrieval. The skills are transferable to a wide variety of information environments including government, business, non-profit, public, school, and academic information organizations.

Topics will include:

  • Conducting an effective reference interview
  • Search techniques and strategies, including database selection, concept analysis, search syntax, pearl building, and citation chaining
  • Database indexing
  • Relationship between database structures and effective search techniques
  • Evaluation of search methods
  • General online research

Course Requirements

General Requirements:

  • Visit the Canvas course site daily to review important announcements and to engage actively in discussions.
  • Keep up with assigned readings and video recordings, and complete assignments and exercises to the best of your ability.
  • Submit all assignments by the stated due dates. Late assignments are not accepted, except in cases of serious sudden illness or family emergency, when said circumstances are communicated to the instructor before the due date.



Learning Objectives

Points Deadlines


— Dialog

— Web of Science

— Westlaw

1235678 30


— Feb. 22

— Mar. 15

— Apr. 6


— Search Strategies

— Citation Searching

— Web Power Searching

2348 15


— Feb. 15

— Mar. 8

— Apr. 26


— Search Concept Presentation (10 pts)

— Final Project and Presentation (30 pts)

1256, 7 40


— Apr. 12

— May 17


— Introduction

— Database Structure

— Classification Systems

— Final Project Proposal

— Search Concept Presentation Discussion

— Web Power Searching

— Final Project Discussion

— Additional discussion topics are optional

1458 15

— Feb. 1

— Feb. 8

— Mar. 1

— Mar. 22

— Apr. 12

— Apr. 19

— May 17

TOTAL   100  
  • Exercises:
    • There are several assigned exercises requiring searches in subscription search engines. Grading will be based on the student's search strategies, thought processes, and results of the searches. Students may work in groups to complete the exercises, though each student must submit his or her own assignment for each exercise. [Supports CLOs 123567, and 8.]
  • Quizzes:
    • Quizzes will test understanding of key search concepts covered in assigned course readings and video recordings. The quizzes are open-book and untimed. [Supports CLOs  234, and 8.]
  • Online Discussion:
    • Active participation in discussions is an important component of online courses. Students are expected to post at least substantive two comments (one original post and one reply to a post) in each required discussion topic. Participation in additional topics is optional. [Supports CLOs 14 5 8.]
  • Presentations:
    • Students will give one short presentation (approximately five (5) minutes in duration) on a key search concept covered in the course and a second presentation on their final project. Presentations may be live using Zoom or pre-recorded, using the student's preferred software and format. [Supports CLOs 1256, and 7.]
  • Final Project:
    • Students may choose one of the following for the final project: (1) an essay on a topic related to online searching, formatted using APA style and proper organization, grammar, and syntax; (2) a client project (a "client" may be a student, professor, family member, or friend who has a specific information need); or (3) a training guide for a specific user group on search techniques and concepts using a product of the student's choice, which may be in the format of a video tutorial or a LibGuide. Students must submit their proposed final project for instructor approval prior to submission.[Supports CLOs 1256, and 7.] 

Course Calendar

Week Topic Readings and Recordings Deadlines


Jan. 27-Feb. 1


Brown & Bell: Preface; Chapter 1: Introduction to Library Databases

Weekly Course Lecture

Discussion 2/1

Dialog Student Use Agreement 2/1


Feb. 2-Feb. 8


Brown & Bell: Chapter 2: How Databases Work; Chapter 6: Database Interfaces; Vendor Features and Variations; Glossary

Weekly Course Lecture

Discussion 2/8

3 & 4

Feb. 9-22


Brown & Bell: Chapter 4: The Searcher's Toolkit: Part 1; Chapter 5: The Searcher's Toolkit: Part 2

Weekly Course Lecture

Quiz 1 2/15

Exercise 1 2/22



Feb. 23-Mar. 1


Brown & Bell: Chapter 3: Controlled Vocabularies; Chapter 7: Social Science Databases; Chapter 10: Science, Engineering, and Medical Databases

Weekly Course Lecture

Discussion 3/1

6 & 7

Mar. 2-15


See Course Site for Assigned Readings

Weekly Course Lecture

Quiz 2 3/8

Exercise 2 3/15


Mar. 16-22


Brown & Bell: Chapter 14: User Behaviors and Meeting Information Needs; Chapter 15: Evaluating Databases; Chapter 16: Teaching Other People About Databases

Weekly Course Lecture 

Final Project Proposal 3/22

9 & 10

Mar. 23-29


Brown & Bell: Chapter 9: Searching Newspaper Content (pp. 206-211)

Weekly Course Lecture 

SPRING BREAK 3/29--4/2

Discussion 3/28

Exercise 3 4/6


Apr. 5-12


See Course Site for Assigned Readings

Weekly Course Lecture 

Search Concept Presentation and Discussion 4/12

12 & 13

Apr. 13-26


See Course Site for Assigned Readings

Weekly Course Lecture 

Discussion 4/19

Quiz 3 4/26


Apr. 27-May 3


Brown & Bell: Chapter 13: Web-Scale Discovery Databases 

Weekly Course Lecture 

Discussion 5/3

15 & 16

May 4-17


See Course Site for Assigned Readings

Weekly Course Lecture 

Final Project and Presentation and Discussion 5/17


Textbook Ordering Information:

Important: Please ensure that you purchase the most recent edition of the required textbook, which is available on Amazon and through other booksellers. Recommended textbooks are suggested, though not required. Further information will be communicated to enrolled students via MySJSU before the class starts.

Additional Readings and Assigned Materials:

Readings in addition to the textbook will be assigned in the Canvas course site, including journal articles, book chapters, and system documentation from search vendors. There will also be video recordings assigned, which will be available in Canvas. Multiple formats will be made available.

Course Communications

The instructor will respond to emails and discussion questions within 24 hours. Assignments will be returned with feedback within 72 hours of submission, once all students have submitted their work for each assignment.

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:

  • Brown, C., & Bell, S. (2018). Librarian's guide to online searching (5th ed.). Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1440861560arrow 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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