Biology 182: Use and Understanding of Biological Literature

Twice a year, in Fall and Winter terms, I teach [taught] the Library portion (5 weeks) of a course required of all Biology majors --some 60 students each year. the course is designed to provide students with the skills necessary to make productive use of the biological literature, and to serve as a foundation for their future use of information resources, whatever career paths they choose. I thus have the opportunity and the challenge of devising novel ways to accomplish the goals of the course --both to keep the course material current with rapidly evolving information access tools, and to learn new material myself. Three years ago I started using a different search example for each new term, choosing the topic either by faculty suggestion or by some serendipitous personal encounter. I then used the example throughout the 5 classes and documented my research process, using the various tools in web documents.

Web material for Biology 182 is available here (2005 iteration, the last).

Each term I have refined and expanded the presentation, guided in part by the necessity to add new electronic information sources as they became available, in part by suggestions for redirection offered by students completing the course, and in part by my own developing sense of what biology students really need to encounter, master, and know.

Each student works with one of the Biology faculty members, who assigns a research topic for the student to investigate, using the various information tools and resources I present and demonstrate. Each student produces an annotated bibliography, focused on the current frontiers of the research topic. In many cases this requires a process of limitation of the topic, in consultation with the faculty supervisor.