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College of Professional and Global Education · School of Information

Online Searching
INFO 244

  • Spring 2023
  • Sections 10, 11
  • 3 Unit(s)
  • 01/25/2023 to 05/15/2023
  • Modified 05/22/2023

Canvas Information: Courses will be available January 25th, 6 am PT.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Contact Information

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

Course Description and Requisites

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 comparisons 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

INFO 202.

Classroom Protocols


Students are expected to participate fully in all class activities. It is expected that students will be open-minded and participate fully in discussions in class and debate in a mature and respectful manner. Use of derogatory, condescending, or offensive language including profanity is prohibited. Disagreement is healthy and perfectly acceptable. Expressing disagreement should always include an explanation of your reasoning and, whenever possible, evidence to support your position. In accordance with San José State University's Policies, the Student Code of Conduct, and applicable state and federal laws, discrimination based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability is prohibited in any form.

Program Information

Course Workload

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 Goals

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes) Supported

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.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

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.

Course Materials


Required Textbooks:

  • Brown, C. (2021). Librarian's guide to online searching: Cultivating database skills for research and instruction (6th ed.). Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1440878234

Course Requirements and Assignments


Learning Objectives

Points Deadlines


— Dialog

— Web of Science

— Westlaw

1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 30


— Feb. 20

— Mar. 13

— Apr. 5


— Search Strategies

— Citation Searching

— Web Power Searching

2, 3, 4, 8 15


— Feb. 13

— Mar. 6

— Apr. 24


— Search Concept Presentation (10 pts)

— Final Project and Presentation (30 pts)

1, 2, 5, 6, 7 40


— Apr. 10

— May 15


— Introduction

— Database Structure

— Classification Systems

— Final Project Proposal

— Search Concept Presentation Discussion

— Web Power Searching

— Final Project Discussion

— Additional discussion topics are optional

1, 4, 5, 8 15

— Jan. 30

— Feb. 6

— Feb. 27

— Mar. 20

— Apr. 10

— Apr. 17

— May 12

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 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 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 2, 3, 4, and 8.]
  • Online Discussion:
    • Active participation in discussions is an important component of online courses. Students are expected to post at least two substantive comments (one original post and one reply to a post) in each required discussion topic. Participation in additional topics is optional. [Supports CLOs 1, 4, 5, 8.]
  • Presentations:
    • Students will give one short presentation (no more than five (5) minutes in duration) on a key search concept covered in the course and a second presentation on their final project. Presentations will be pre-recorded using the student's preferred software. [Supports CLOs 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7.]
  • Final Project:
    • Students may choose one of the following for the final project: (1) a client project (a "client" may be a student, professor, family member, or friend who has a specific information need); or (2) 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) a video tutorial or (b) a LibGuide. Students must submit their proposed final project for instructor approval prior to submission. The Final Project will also require a separate presentation in which the student summarizes their project. [Supports CLOs 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7.]

Grading Information

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

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


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 (PDF), relevant university policy concerning all courses, such as student responsibilities, academic integrity, accommodations, dropping and adding, consent for recording of class, etc. and available student services (e.g. learning assistance, counseling, and other resources) are listed on the Syllabus Information web page. Make sure to visit this page to review and be aware of these university policies and resources.

Course Schedule

Week Topic Readings and Recordings Deadlines


Jan. 25-Jan. 30


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

Weekly Course Lecture

Discussion 1/30

Dialog Student Use Agreement 1/30


Jan. 31-Feb. 6


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

Weekly Course Lecture

Discussion 2/6

3 & 4

Feb. 7-Feb. 20


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

Weekly Course Lecture

Quiz 1 2/13

Exercise 1 2/20



Feb. 21-Feb. 27


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

Weekly Course Lecture

Discussion 2/27

6 & 7

Feb. 28-Mar. 13


See Course Site for Assigned Readings

Weekly Course Lecture

Quiz 2 3/6

Exercise 2 3/13


Mar. 14-Mar. 20


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 3/20

9 & 10

Mar. 21-Mar. 21


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

Weekly Course Lecture

SPRING BREAK 3/28--3/31

Exercise 3 4/5


Apr. 4-Apr. 10


See Course Site for Assigned Readings

Weekly Course Lecture

Search Concept Presentation and Discussion 4/10

12 & 13

Apr. 11-Apr. 24


See Course Site for Assigned Readings

Weekly Course Lecture

Discussion 4/17

Quiz 3 4/24


Apr. 25-May 1


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

Weekly Course Lecture


15 & 16

May 2-May 15


See Course Site for Assigned Readings

Weekly Course Lecture

Final Project Discussion 5/12

Presentation and Discussion 5/15