I tried posting a comment at the Krafty Librarian blog in response to her post on this topic. For some reason, my computer seems to have eaten the comment–perhaps I failed the captcha test or something. Anyway, Michelle wrote,
I thought I would ask what you would do and teach in three one hour classes on how to do Medline. What are things you have learned that work well, that don’t work well? what are some good search questions that illustrate certain aspects of searching Medline? What about mini pre and post test to see how much they have learned?
For one thing, I have to say that only having one hour for MEDLINE instruction is just not much. You can do it if you are working one on one with someone, because then you can tailor it to the person’s needs, but otherwise, it is difficult to teach in less than 1 1/2 hours.
Michelle didn’t state whether she plans to use PubMed or Ovid MEDLINE (or some other version of MEDLINE in her post), but I think that what you choose to teach depends inherently on the platform. For Ovid, you’ve got to talk about MeSH, whereas for PubMed, if you only have an hour, you are better off just looking at various features, like Details, the History, the Clipboard, My NCBI, and etc. Finding full text from either of these databases is pretty critical.
What works well? I find that giving students time to work in pairs or alone on a list of searches works well. Then, I can go around and see when they are having trouble. With a one-hour session, this is probably a no-go. The kinds of questions I have them answer vary on the database, too, but I might have them verify the citation of article comparing the health benefits of shaken versus stirred martinis, find articles on the adverse effects of video games (subheadings–an Ovid search), and find review articles on a particular topic. Since I think her class is for 3rd years (??), I’d also recommend taking a quick look at the EBM tools: Clinical Queries in PubMed and the filters in the Limits in Ovid. One example I always use is the difference between depression and depressive disorder–it can be difficult to figure out which one you are looking for if you don’t know. One of my favorite evil searches is to find information on the effects of sugar substitutes on weight loss–that forces them to think (what are the sugar substitutes?), use OR, and combine searches.
I personally wouldn’t bother with before or after quizzes unless there is a grade or pass/fail component involved. I make my students turn in required homework assignments which I grade on a pass/fail basis. It is a good opportunity to learn more about the students you’re working with: who is a perfectionist, who is a slacker, who makes excuses, who is never going to look you in the eye again.
The most important thing, as I think Bob may have pointed out in a comment on one of my earlier posts, is to get the students familiar with your contact information. When I teach first years, in particular, I know full well they will forget everything the minute they finish up my class–but I make sure that they know I am there to help them if they need it.
This year, I will again be using as my MEDLINE training the Mount Sinai Medical School online PubMed tutorial developed by Laura Schimming (forgive me if I misspelled that!). At an excellent presentation at MLA, Laura showed how the self-paced tutorial is just as effective as in-class bibliographic instruction, and in fact, that students prefer it.
List of critical Ovid MEDLINE skills:
- Knowing what explode and focus are
- MeSH mapping – scope notes, the tree, not picking more than one at one time from the mapping display are part of that, though less critical
- combining searches
- limiting to English, review articles, by age group
- saving search results
- finding full text
Critical PubMed skills
- Citation view (to find MeSH terms)
- finding full text
- Limiting to English, review articles, by age group, etc
- Using AND