Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Does anyone else get super excited for students/patrons when you see the assignment they will be working on? I do. And I have a feeling I am super nerdy for it. At the university I work at all freshmen have to take a ENG100-type class. The assignment that we do research instruction for is called the Argumentative Synthesis Assignment. Students get to pick topics which can be a movie, an album by a particular artist/music group, a TV show, or a controversial topic in their field/major. They then have to find two articles that discuss the topic and synthesize the views in the articles with their own views. Isn't that COOL?

The examples I use in my instruction sessions are Twilight, Jersey Shore, and Britney Spears "Oops I Did It Again." Obvi I just got a little excited about the assignment so I used examples that I personally would use if given the assignment. I also chose them because I can highlight phrase searching ("jersey shore") and of course those Boolean operators. I tell them to think of their search for reviews as a formula: "Topic" AND review. We have them use Academic Search Complete which has some pretty stellar features.

Screenshot of my handout (upper portion)

Yesterday I observed a session done by my supervisor. This particular class was designated as one that had a tutor, which I assumed meant the students might be less engaged or have more trouble with the material. In fact, the students were super energetic, knew what was going on, and actually seemed excited about their topics. One student was going to do the movie Juno and discuss a possible pro life stance of the film (oh, did I mention I work at a Catholic university?) Another student was going to do The Godfather and it's depiction of the Italian family unit. I probably freaked them out a bit because I sort of hovered because I was intrigued. A previous class of mine had students that wanted to do movies like The Hangover, Billy Madison, and Pineapple Express... which is fine, but they weren't really thinking about the scholarly approach like this class was. Lesson learned: don't judge a class by a label created by the registrar/university. The class dynamics could actually be really awesome and make for a really great instruction session. Oh, and a chance to really geek out about combining scholarly research and pop culture makes work really fun.


  1. This is awesome and I love how into it you are.

    Question: What is Academic Search Complete, exactly? I Googled it (because, duh, I went to two years of library school and that is simply what one does) and I see that it's an EBSCO database, but I do not understand how or why it is better or different than Lexis Academic, for example.

    Can I do my Argumentative Synthesis Argument on body-image stereotypes as presented in and exacerbated by the contestants on Project Runway?

  2. Good question! Academic Search Complete is our go-to general database because it's scholarly, multi-disciplinary, and has lots of full text articles (5,300 full-text periodicals, including 4,400 peer-reviewed journals). I find I use EBSCO products a lot more than LexisNexis... it seems to link up better with our consortium's Electronic Journal Center which makes everyone happy.

    Project runway paper? Yes, please do! You probably wouldn't even have to focus on a specific season either! It's everywhere.

  3. I'm a little in love with Academic Search Complete, primarily because it's EBSCO. I think their search interface is amazing!

    Katy, I think I creep my students out as well, cause I get interested in their projects.