Sunday, April 29, 2018

Databases and the Research Process

We begin in databases for student research. Why use a database?

  • Sources have been vetted. (i.e. They have been checked by experts for accuracy and reliability)
  • Many sources in databases are not available on the Internet. They are behind a paywall.
  • Databases have been purchased with student projects in mind. (i.e. I purchase what I know they need)
  • Sources within the database are often written on a student level, with varying lexiles (readability) for varying student needs.
  • Databases provide multiple types of sources in a neat package, including magazine articles, reference books, academic journals, videos and audios
  • College-bound students will use databases for academic research. Acquainting students with database use now will save them from head-ache, heart-ache and possibly failure post-secondary school.
I've created several YouTube videos to help my students with database searching, combining information about planning for our search (which I discussed in my last blog post) with the beginning of the actual research process. Some learners may absorb information better from a video than lecture style in the classroom; they may benefit from a video that they can replay several times. This is a sample of one of my database training videos on YouTube.

Students learn about authority as part of their 9th grade English research project at my high school. Databases help ease them into understanding what a good source looks like before we unleash them on the Internet. (In my next post, I will talk more about Internet searching and high school students.) We require students to find one database article, one book source. (Yes, they actually need to touch a printed book), one Internet source, and one source of their choice. Their free choice is often a second database source as information in the databases on their subjects is plentiful and easy to find in comparison to finding a good Internet source via Google.

Where a college can have dozens of databases for student use, with many specific databases for varied majors and professions, high school databases are more limited. We use several including varied EBSCO databases, varied Galenet databases, and SIRS. Students must learn which databases suit their needs, gaining an understanding of how information is organized and shared. The goal is for students to understand that information comes from somewhere. I find that few students think about sources before they reach me. In the 21st century, information is just at their fingertips. I want students to realize that people give information form in their writing, video creation, and through images. People have varied expertise. Sources are of varying quality. You must carefully choose what kind of source you should use to support your point as a researcher or when you need to make critical decisions.

All-in-all, databases provide a container for information in various forms. While a pay-database contains information with varied degrees of authority, information has been reviewed prior to inclusion in the tool. While anyone can post anything on the Internet, databases are more selective, providing a good starting place for kids to think about information quality, quantity, and usefulness.

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