Teaching Chemical Information:
Tips and Techniques
— March 1998 —
Things to Consider
- Students probably need to know some basics about the printed product to use the electronic product well.
- Why separate printed from online?
- Teach the database, rather than mode of delivery.
- Introducing mechanics of online searching early.
- Do it gradually—no one can get it all in an hour!
- Seemingly obvious point: Don’t teach what you don’t own. Exception: for graduate students and upper-division undergraduates, you may want to at least mention tools which they’ll find elsewhere.
- Tools should be readily available to the particular students in question.
Ease of learning, ease of use
- Some print tools are easy to use and their electronic counterparts difficult; some vice versa.
- Start with the quickest, easiest tools and build up to the more difficult but more powerful.
- Some print tools have different coverage than their electronic counterparts
- Chronological range — usually print goes back farther
- Currency of information — usually, electronic has the edge, but not always with CD-ROM.
- Depth of coverage — example: Gmelin in print vs. Gmelin online
- Some print tools strongly influence features of their electronic counterparts.
- Chemical Abstracts — abbreviations, inverted subject headings
- Science Citation Index — citations by first author only, journal abbreviations
Points Worth Pondering
- Online searching is fast, but the intellectual effort is great
- Online searching gives lots of references, BUT
- How many answers are too many
- Have all the important references been found
- Information is never cheap, but mistakes online can be expensive
- Don't try to teach online databases without adequate documentation