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 New York State library should have access to all of the ones provided through the NYSL NOVEL service. (If you’re in another state, check with your State Library.) In addition, your School Library System 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.

Does your library have a web page or pathfinder page of some sort that includes the databases available to your students and staff? 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 at the point of need? You can also create search box widgets to put on your web sites, blogs and wikis. So handy! (Instructions for Gale, Proquest and  EBSCO.)

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

  • Alerts for subject searches – Some databases have an option to create an alert to notify you about 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 later use. 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 sidebar of the LAHC LibGuide.

Help files and more


What web search tools do you recommend to your students? Sure, most people seem to turn to Google first. And teaching students the best ways to use Google, Bing and Yahoo is important. But there are other search tools that can help in any number of circumstances. Folks from our Cool Tools for School Facebook group suggested some of the following selections. Have other tools to share? Leave a comment below and/or write about them in your blog post.

  • 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.
  • Carrot Search – Has clustering features like instagrok. From your search results page, select the Clusters or Foam Tree options for visual display of results and concepts.
  • 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!
  • 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: Searches across multiple search engines – a meta-search tool. Enter your search and send it to the search tools you select.

Younger Students

  • KidRex: 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. More information about KidRex.   (Don’t even think about using Kiddle!)
  • Thinga – another newish search tool aimed at younger children.
  • Choosito – Search the web or the Choosito library of content. Limit search by reading level and/or subject area. Worth a look if you work with younger children. Free/fee options.



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. Use your favorite curation tool. Don’t have one? Check out Thing 6: Curation.
  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.


  • Write & publish your blog post.
  • Copy the URL for the post.
  • Return to the lesson page on the CanvasLMS site.
  • Use the SUBMIT ASSIGNMENT button in the CanvasLMS page and paste in your URL.

*Only for students participating in the workshop for PD credit hours through the Canavas LMS system.






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