MLibrary Instructor College

An online forum for University of Michigan Library instructors

ArticlesPlus Brown Bag Discussion

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This was an open discussion by library instructors about teaching ArticlesPlus. The description from the announcement is below, followed by notes from the discussion.

The Instructor College Steering Committee invites you to a brown bag discussion about this semester’s teaching of the new ArticlesPlus search feature. Come hear what’s working — or not working — for your colleagues, and share your own insights, successes, or concerns. Even if you haven’t taught ArticlesPlus yet, join us for this discussion to get new ideas of how it might work in your situation for you.

General Comments/Discussion"Start Here"

While most people have pointed out ArticlesPlus in their instructional sessions, as someone said, “teaching seems like an overstatement…. There’s not much to teach because it’s so easy”. Several people felt that it’s a good place for students to start, particularly undergraduates, and that it’s very good for interdisciplinary research. However, you need to be sure to stress that it isn’t everything.

When demonstrating ArticlesPlus, instructors often compare it to GoogleScholar, Proquest, or some other specific database. This allows the instructor to highlight certain features of individual databases and/or of ArticlesPlus. People also mentioned that they don’t always bring up ArticlesPlus – just depends on the instructional session.

Several instructors also mentioned that they use the Advanced screen, either putting in a basic search and then using the facets to limit, or using specific fields and getting a tighter results page from the start.

Some people start with ArticlesPlus them move to individual databases, and some do the opposite.

If they’re excited about ArticlesPlus they might be more likely to return… ease of use is important. There are worse things than students being excited about something even if it’s not 100% perfect. Most of the feedback that the web team gets has been positive, and there is a high satisfaction level overall.

People liked that ArticlesPlus has a built-in database recommender, but the downside is that it’s not great, and we can’t control it.


The biggest complaint is that there’s no way to modify the search, and that the initial search disappears. A fix is in development, and should be moved over to the production server soon.

Some times the sheer number of results is overwhelming for students, so teaching them about limiting by facet is important. At the same time, others mentioned that sometimes it’s hard to hone in on what you’re trying to focus on – this is a good time to move to a more specific database.

The links to specific articles through MGetIt don’t always work  Judy asked that people be sure to report it to EAU Support when it doesn’t work, because they can tweak the priority list.

Someone said it seemed to be a bit slower than the “out of the box” version like they have at Dartmouth.

While people like the facets and that it looks similar to Mirlyn, so people struggle with what is available there. For example, some of the subjects are too broad for interdisciplinary research; unfortunately the publishers supply these keywords and we don’t have any control over them. Again, if using these subjects starts to get frustrating for the students, it’s a good time to point out individual databases.

Should it be marketed as a “start here” place? If so, we need to be able to get them easily and clearly to other options such as research guides, specific databases and so on.


Great for finding incomplete citations, and AskaLibrarian (as well as others) are using it more and more to help people find what they’re looking for.

ArticlesPlus gives people something they can succeed at, therefore creating a positive experience and giving them confidence. Specific databases are sometimes more confusing, so again, ArticlesPlus is a good starting point as they are learning to do research.


Judy asked if there had been any problems specifically with newspapers – none were reported.

Have there been any issues with a recent issues not being available but you know it should be there? Someone did note that they found a gap in coverage for something in particular.  People were encouraged to report these specifics to EAU Support so they can be tracked/fixed.

Someone asked if Summon will be included in Ulrich’s so you can see where a particular item is indexed. Not likely, says the web team, because the indexes would be institution specific, and the information is constantly changing. However, they can bring it up with ProQuest.

Other Comments (not specific to ArticlesPlus)

In the context of a study about whether students learn from screencasts, Amanda Peters, Angie Oehrli, and Julie Piacentine have found that students find the result page (from the main web page search box) confusing, and that not all students understand what a “database” is. There was a suggestion for more standardized descriptions of the databases to make it more clear to students what they will find.


Written by Instructor College

December 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Brown Bags, Events

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