Thing 9: Databases & Search Tools

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 BOCES SLS 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 an activity for this “thing”! You could add a web page to your library site, create a page on your blog or even set up a wiki page.  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? have you included them in pathfinders and lessons? You can also create search box widgets to put on your web sites, blogs and wikis. So handy. Here are the instructions for creating Gale & EBSCO.
  • NOTE: EBSCO’s Primary Search includes 3 different interfaces. Searchasaurus is a fun graphical interface for the youngest children, Kids Search is for slightly older kids. There’s also the regular EBSCO interface for those familiar with EBSCO’s other databases.

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

  • RSS feeds for subject searches. Many of databases now have an option to create RSS feeds to alert you to new articles on the topic you’ve searched for. In Ebsco databases, you’ll find it under the “Alert, Share, Save” menu. With Gale,  look for the “Create Search Alert” option.
  • 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 added 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. ExamplesSearch Widgets on the CVES wiki page.

Help files and more


What search tools do you recommend to your students?  Most folks turn to Google first, I know 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 document, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 – Joyce Valenza’s LibGuides page with tons more information about search tools.
  • BingItOn: Compare Google and Bing results side by side.
  • 100 Search Engines For Academic Research – LOTS of search tools. List is divided by topic area. Best for high school and college level
  • Alternative Search Tools: These options to Google will help students become better researchers

Do More With Google


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

  1. Databases: Explore a new database. 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. Google: Amp up your Google search skills and discover some tips and tricks you didn’t know. Use the articles listed above to guide you.
  5. 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.
  6. Compare: Pick a topic and compare the results across several tools
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Additional Reading and Resources

3 Responses to Thing 9: Databases & Search Tools

  1. Pingback: The Finish Line is also the Starting Line | SLS Cool Tools – Hudson Valley

  2. lmetz2012 says:

    I finished Polly! Right under the wire!!!

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