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Ekstrom Library

English 102 Information Literacy Activities and Lesson Plans: Searching in a Library Database

Activity Guide: Searching in a Library Database

Audience: English 102

Duration: 15-20 minutes

Tools/Technology: EBSCO Academic Search Complete

Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize search tools appropriate for specific purposes
  • Conduct strategic information searches, revising research questions and search strategies as needed


This activity can be used in conjunction with Evaluating Information Sources or Exploring the Information Ecosystem as a way to compare Google searching with searching in a library database. At the end of the activity, students will have a better understanding of how to strategically search in a library database. 

Introduce students to the Subject Guides page on the library website and explain that they can find subject-specific databases here. Go to the Any Topic guide and explain that EBSCO Academic Search Complete is a good starting point for any research topic. At this point, you might ask if any students have used this database before.

Depending on what activity you used to start the class, you can either have students search the database for a relevant article on their own research question or on the sample research question that you are using to guide the class. Below, in the Box to Copy, are guiding questions for students to answer as they explore the database.

After students search in the database and discuss the questions below, you might prompt them to discuss how they feel about using the library database. In what ways is the database better than Google? In what ways is it worse? If there's anything left about the database that you feel students need to know, show them now. (Students will usually need a demonstration of FindIt@UofL.) Open up the floor to any more questions about searching the database. If time allows, students should use the remainder of class to search for articles on their own research topics.

Box to Copy: Searching in a Library Database

1. Before you begin searching, compare the interface of the database with Google's interface. How are they similar? How are they different?

2. When searching for your topic, what source types are the majority in your results?

3. Can you find a way to see the most recent articles first? How about a way to get rid of all the results that are over five years old?

4. Find a scholarly article that is relevant to your research question. How do you know it's scholarly?

5. Can you find a way to obtain the full text of the article? How about a way to get the citation for your bibliography?

Discover. Create. Succeed.