Thing 9: Databases & Search Tools

post-it notes on whiteboard
photo credit: (nz)dave via photopin cc

This is your opportunity to explore some databases and search tools that are new to you or to delve more deeply into ones that you haven’t had time to explore as much as you’d like.


Each of your school libraries has it’s own unique mix of databases that provide access to scholarly literature, popular magazines, newspapers and more. Every library should have access to all of the ones provided through the NYSL NOVEL service. In addition, your School Library Systsem may provide the option of purchasing additional services through them. And you may also be purchasing access through your own school district.

If you’re not familiar with which database research sources are available in your school, contact your school librarian or your regional SLS Director.

Hopefully you’ve been able to create a web page that includes all of the services available to your students and staff and incorporate links to appropriate services on online pathfinder pages you’ve created. If not, you might consider creating one as your activity for this “thing”! You could add a web page to your library website, create a page on your blog, add to your libguides or whatever other method you can think of. The more visible the databases are, the more likely they are to be used.

Database lists

  • NOVEL NY – You all should have access to this list of databases through the New York State Library’s NOVEL project. Do you have link to them from your own school web site? Include them in pathfinders and lessons? You can also create search box widgets to put on your web sites, blogs and wikis. So handy. Instructions for Gale & EBSCO.

Some features to look for and explore in the databases include:

  • RSS feeds for subject searches. Some databases have an option to create RSS feeds to alert you to new articles on the topic you’ve searched for.
  • Saving results – Check the database you’re testing for options to save results to a search list that can be exported for use later. Or being able to add content to a service like Evernote.
  • Advanced options – Can you limit a search to peer reviewed articles? Full text? Limits by date? Other useful search options?
  • Search widgets – Are there search widgets you can use to promote the resources on your own web site. Examples: Search Widgets on the St. Patrick St. Vincent High School LibGuides page.

Help files and more


What search tools do you recommend to your students? I know most folks turn to Google first, I admit that I do. And teaching students the best ways to use Google, Bing and Yahoo is important. But sometimes we need to help them focus their searches by using more specific search tools. Some additional tools, tips and techniques are listed below. Thanks to the folks from our CoolToolsforSchool Facebook group for helping out with these selections! Crowdsourcing at it’s best.

Have other tools to share? Leave a comment below and/or write about them in your blog post.

  • SweetSearch: SweetSearch is a search engine for students covering 35,000 sites that research experts, librarians and teachers have evaluated and approved. Uses Google’s Custom Search Engine technology to search within the great sites they’ve selected. Search results show context of search terms to help students assess results before visiting. Includes options to save information to a Google Drive, add citations to EasyBib, Evernote, Diigo and more. You can also add SweetSearch to your Firefox or IE browser search box and add search widgets to your web pages. This video explains many of the features. SweetSearch is part of the Finding Dulcinea project, which is a treasure trove of educational resources.
  • SweetSearch4Me: Similar service for younger students. NOTE there is a link on that page to a search widget that you can add to your web site.
  • Million Short – “Million Short is an experimental web search engine (really, more of a discovery engine) that allows you to REMOVE the top million (or top 100k, 10k, 1k, 100) sites from the results set. We thought it might be somewhat interesting to see what we’d find if we just removed an entire slice of the web.”
  • InstaGrok: An interesting approach to search. Tell it what you want to learn about and it will find resources that might help you learn more. If you remember Google’s Wonder Wheel, that sort of interface is part of the results display. Results also include a list of key facts, links to web sites, images and videos. Also creates quiz questions to test your understanding of the topic.
  • KidRex: Like SweetSearch, KidRex uses Google’s Custom Search technology and Safe Search filtering to search the web. But it searches the broader web, not a a hand-picked selection of web sites like SweetSearch. Seems like they complement each other? Test it out and tell us what you think in your blog post. More information about KidRex.
  • Build Your Own! Google Custom Search: Set up a search box that covers just the sites you think are useful for a particular topic. You could easily collaborate with others and build really substantial custom searches for specific topics. The search box can be embedded on your web pages.
  • Scoopit: Have a topic you want to keep up with? Check to see if anyone has a Scoopit page on your topic. If not, consider creating one and sharing your discoveries with others.
  • LibGuides: Costs money to build your own resource guides. But don’t overlook FREE access to a treasure trove of search guides that others have created. Take advantage of the expertise of your colleagues!
  • Spartan Guides Research Tools – Springfield Township HS LibGuides page with tons more information about search tools.
  • Power Searching with Google: Sharpen your search skills.
  • BingItOn: Compare Google and Bing results side by side.
  • Serendipity: A search tool for finding Open Educational Resources and Open Courseware.
  • DuckDuckGo: A search engine that doesn’t track what you’re searching. Try comparing results from DuckDuckGo and other search engines that track what you’re searching and customize the results.
  • Instya: A new multiple search engine tool. Enter your search and send it to the search tools you select.



OPTIONS: As usual, the options are many and varied. Pick an option (or two!) from the following list:

  1. Databases: Explore a database that you’re not an expert with yet. Find out how it works, what features are available. Consider how you might use it with your classes.
  2. Databases: Figure out how to add search widget to one of your web pages, wikis, google sites, blogs. Or create a web page with a list of databases if you don’t already have one. How might this help students?
  3. Search Tools: Pick a tool you don’t know well and explore it. Is it appropriate for the students you work with?
  4. Custom Search: Create a Google Custom Search and share it with the rest of us! You may not be able to embed it on your Cool Tools blog, but you can link to it.
  5. Compare: Pick a topic and compare the results across several tools
  6. Curate: Create a new subject guide for an upcoming research project or one of your interests. Try Scoopit, Only2Clicks, Livebinders, or other tool of your choosing.
  7. Power Searching with Google: Work through some of the Google search lessons and amp up your Google skills.

BLOG POST: For your Thing 9 blog post, share what you learned about the tools you selected and how you might put them to use in your school.

LOG YOUR LESSON: Don’t forget to log your blog post when you’re done!  When you finish this lesson by fill out the log form. You’ll need the URL of your first blog post to complete the form.


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