Database Interfaces

I’ve been spending some time in the new Meebo chat room for the Library Society of the World and we briefly talked about database interfaces today. This seems particularly appropriate today, because I’ve spent most of the morning helping various students try to figure our our databases. Specifically, these are returning adult students in our education department trying to figure out ProQuest’s Education Journals and HW Wilson’s Education Full Text.

These students are all in the same course this summer, and have articles to find daily and/or weekly. They have been told by their professor not to use things they find on the internet, which has also caused some confusion as to whether or not they can use the databases.

The following is a sampling of the questions I’ve had this week:

First thing was the name of the database – Full Text? What? So I explained that it meant that many of the articles available directly from the computer instead of requiring the user to go find the print journal and make a copy.

Then there was trouble with the links in the database – there are sometimes three or more links under each citation – Full Text, Full Text (PDF), Abstract, Article Linker. One of the students was using the Article Linker link only and couldn’t see why it was sending her in a circle. So I explained that (which had never occurred to me as a possible issue…)

Then there was the trouble with navigating back the list of saved articles in ProQuest. When a PDF is opened, there is a small link at the top that says “Back to your research”. The back button is unreliable in this instance, but the link is so small that students don’t see it and possibly lose their research.

One of the major issues I’m seeing is a lack of research skills. As far as I know, there are no courses on research skills available in the Education Department, or elsewhere at the university. This is a skill that is becoming more and more necessary, both during and after college. We (the library faculty) are working diligently to try to add an element of research skills to many of the classes on campus, but it’s been slow going. Especially in the Education department, it seems.

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