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And, Or, Not . . . three important words for searching success.

These three words form the basis of Boolean logic and help students more efficiently search through the complicated world of information and find resources specific to their academic needs.

We have heard many instruction librarians discussing the difficulty of keeping students engaged once the “B” word is introduced in a session. Should the “B” word be avoided altogether? Should new methods be used to teach students about Boolean?

We think instruction on Boolean should continue to be emphasized when teaching students how to search and locate information. After all, Boolean is included in the ACRL information competency standards and the “searching” portion of the Project SAILS skills sets. But maybe there are better ways to cover this topic. One option is a free tool called Boolify.

Boolify presents Boolean logic in a fun and graphical way to show students the usefulness of applying Boolean search operators when looking for resources with the Google search engine. Though it was designed specifically for K-12, we think there are many advantages to using it within higher education settings, including:

  • Great for the hands-on learners in your courses
  • Clearly illustrates the usefulness of using Boolean operators
  • Though specific to Google, college students can apply the concepts to research databases
  • The interactive nature of the tool gives students the flexibility to continue refining their search based on the results provided
  • Identifies the logic behind research and uses this logic to improve research skills

But the thing we like most about Boolify is that it covers a very important skill set within information literacy in a practical and easy-to-understand manner. The key is that Boolify is focused on the end goal, which is to teach information literacy skills in a way college students can understand and retain.

In addition to the free Boolify tool, the site also offers lesson plans for teaching information literacy to your students.

Give Boolify a look and consider whether you can use it in your instruction.

York University Libraries recently published an article summarizing the collaboration efforts started between faculty and academic librarians in regard to information literacy instruction at their university. These collaborations were deemed necessary and important by the University following the results from a study called Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL).

The results from the ERIAL project show that “when it comes to finding and evaluating sources in the Internet age, students are downright lousy” and that faculty, students, and academic librarians all bear responsibility.

  • “They [students] preferred simple database searches to other methods of discovery, but generally exhibited a lack of understanding of search logic that often foiled their attempts to find good sources.”
  • “Librarians tend to overestimate the research skills of some of their students, which can result in interactions that leave students feeling, intimidated and alienated.”
  • “Some professors make similar assumptions, and fail to require that their students visit with a librarian before embarking on research projects.”
  • “And both professors and librarians are liable to project an idealistic view of the research process onto students who often are not willing or able to fulfill it.”

Most importantly, faculty and academic librarians rarely work together for a common goal – to strengthen students’ research skills in order to more effectively complete assignments.

York University librarians wanted things to be different. They developed a plan to foster collaboration between faculty and academic librarians, with three options for information literacy instruction. Their article goes on to discuss a successful collaboration between a professor in Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, a law librarian, and business librarian. All three worked together to create information literacy tutorials and laboratory sessions specifically for the professor’s Masters of Law and Masters of Financial Accountability students. And the results were outstanding! Students felt more comfortable with research, the professor received better researched assignments, and the academic librarians demonstrated their value to both faculty and students. These results were possible for a number of reasons:

  • The professor understood the value that academic librarians could provide to his specific courses;
  • Academic librarians were able to connect (and form relationships) with students through the professor, who had an existing relationship with these students;
  • Information literacy instruction was more relevant to these students as it had a direct impact on a specific class assignment; and
  • The information literacy instruction was taught with a specific application in mind, making the short sessions more impactful than a general IL session.

And their IL collaboration efforts are continuing to see great results, as York librarians have created “course-specific library research sessions for an average of 700 classes and assisting approximately 25,000 students” each year.

What a great example of academic librarians displaying their value by utilizing the relationship faculty have with students and collaborating with professors to develop course-specific information literacy resources for their students. Another positive is that students are probably far more comfortable approaching academic librarians when they need additional research help for other classes, erasing the myth that academic librarians are only useful when you need help finding a book.

For more information on the articles discussed:

Click to read the full article on the York University collaboration.

Click to read more about the findings from the ERIAL project.

Finding clever ways to engage students (specifically college students) when teaching information literacy skills can be a tough feat. One of the easiest methods for teaching evaluation methods in the classroom is to use current events in the news. This gives students the opportunity to share what they think on a topic, what information they have obtained, and how that information has helped in forming that opinion.

Emily Gover, an in-house librarian for EasyBib, recently wrote a blog post on how librarians and faculty can use the current election season to teach students evaluation skills – a very important piece of information literacy.

Emily Gover says in her blog post, “The election season is a great opportunity to introduce the importance of evaluation skills to students. Specifically, we can stress the importance of understanding facts, propaganda and bias… and how all three play a huge role in advertising (and sometimes reporting) of the campaigns.”

She also highlights a few great resources offered by Infotopia to aid in using the election to teach information literacy skills. It’s important that students understand the importance of evaluating information – especially in regard to selecting the next president.

Click to read her full post and begin developing the information literacy skills of your students today!