Search results in an Instant

Google Instant provides search results as you type, but is this necessarily a good thing?

The latest search innovation from Google is to provide search results as you type. It aims to deliver faster searches, smarter predictions and instant results.

However, this appears to be at the expense of some key features that savvy searchers may have come to depend upon over the years.

Alex Chitu over at Google Operating System has highlighted some of the features that are no longer available in instant search mode, including the fact that it only returns results 10 at a time and that it stops users from searching within a set up results.

But it certainly does appear to save time as Lifehacker has tried to show …

What effect will this have?

The race to the top of the Google Rankings may become even more fierce, as sites compete to become the first predicted result for each letter of the alphabet.

People will become used to this level of speed and responsiveness from search products and will come to expect it elsewhere.

But will it help searchers to get to the right answer or just to get to an answer a little bit quicker?

At least, it has lead to some creative videos showing how it works …

On a purely personal note, my preference to see 100 search results per page when I query Google means that for now I’ll be turning off Google Instant.

Links of the week

Here is a round-up of news items about information literacy, e-learning and the Virtual Training Suite as picked out by @VTStutorials on Twitter.

  1. Books vs. e-books: tale of the tape does one have to win?
  2. RT: @rscsam: RT @chris_hall: Librarians fight back against publishers propose free & open index to academic literature
  3. Anatomy of a scholarly article
  4. Explore the Roadmap to Information Literacy by @CapellaU at
  5. Studywell resources from QUT in Australia covers #infolit & general student experience
  6. RT @teachlearn HE funding mapped: HEFCE English University Funding 2009-10
  7. Library Staff Report Their Use of Online Tools less email, more social networks
  8. RT: @JorumTeam: See the six winners in the Jorum Learning and Teaching Competition: #jorumcomp10 #ukoer
  9. Google’s count of 130 million books is probably bunk
  10. Video tutorials on evaluating websites
  11. RT: @jiscdigital: “Why metadata REALLY matters for the future of e-books”

Anatomy of a scholarly article

Each Virtual Training Suite tutorial tells students about the scholarly publication process, points them to key journals in their field and refers them to key databases where they can find more articles, but what happens after they have found a relevant scholarly article?

Anatomy of a scholarly article

Understanding the anatomy of a scholarly article can be difficult for new students. Fortunately, a number of library and information professionals have produced great online guides to help them.

Capella University has a comprehensive Roadmap to Information Literacy that includes a chapter on Reading for Results. Their Anatomy of a Scholarly Article guide breaks down a typical academic paper.

The Anatomy of a Scholarly Article tutorial from NCSU Libraries is a nice interactive animation that shows parts of a journal paper and describes their function.

For more information on how to critically engage with the contents of academic papers, the tutorial on the Anatomy of a Scholarly Research Article in the Health Sciences from the University of Vermont has a step-by-step guide to the various components of a scholarly research article. Although it is designed for the health sciences, much of the advice will be useful to students in other subjects.

Video tutorials on evaluating websites

Evaluating websites is an important part of becoming information literate, but can videos help to get the message across to students?

There are quite a few videos on YouTube about evaluating websites and luckily some of them are from libraries and academic establishments.

Here’s a selection of some of the better ones …

Info Literacy 10. Evaluating Information Sources is part of the excellent series of Information Literacy tutorials from Bob Baker of Pima Community College.

It covers the criteria that you need to apply to evaluating both traditional and open web resources, including authority, timeliness, bias and accuracy/credibility of content.

Mainly a talking head interspersed with screen shots, tips to take away and occasional web search examples, plus a list of cited resources, suggested readings and further details.

Top notch content delivered in a traditional manner.

Evaluating Websites from the Oklahoma City Community College Library is part of a series of screencasts available via their YouTube channel.

This tutorial looks at domain names and introduces the ABC and D of website evaluation (Authority, Bias, Currency and Documentation) to get students looking behind an online resource to see what is really there.

Evaluating Websites from the David L. Rice Library is one of a number of screencasts and library specific guides on their channel.

This tutorial illustrates the use of the 5 W’s: Who, What, Where, When, and Why to evaluate websites.

Using humour is always risky but some have tried and whether it is the Library Fairy, Elvis Presley or even a Randy Weasel there appears to be an eclectic cast of characters out there that can help you evaluate websites – happy viewing!

By the book, the e-book

building made from books

Some might say that the recent installation by Slovakian artist Matej Kren at the Museum of Modern Art in Bologna composed of thousands upon thousands of books, shows the importance of books as building blocks of knowledge.

However, the rise of the e-book has caused some to question the role of libraries, despite the fact that a growing number of e-books are being downloaded from libraries, although you may still be in need of some tips for a better e-book reading experience.

In terms of Internet research skills, making students aware of the e-books available to them is increasingly important. Some of the tutorials in the Virtual Training Suite have collected together key texts for various academic subjects:

However this is a fast moving field, for example, just today an email alerted us that there are more than 200 free scientific books to download from on topics including electrical engineering, robotics and materials science.

But there’s more potential to e-books – students are getting used to searching Google Books for snippets from textbooks when they aren’t readily available via their library – using them to look up references, get to key quotes or read chapters when physical libraries are shut.

We recently learnt that the Virtual Training Suite had been recommended to students in a couple of academic textbooks and thanks to the availability of e-books, it’s now possible to check what people have been saying about us:

The Handbook of Literary Research edited by Delia da Sousa Correa and W. R. Owens says on p.22 “If you complete the online tutorial and answer the tour quiz at the end of it, you will have gained an excellent overview of planning and conducting searches and evaluating data” in the chapter on Using online and printed sources by Shafquat Towheed (lecturer in English at The Open University).

Study Skills for Social Workers by Chris Stogdon and Robin Kiteley says on p.67 chapter on Learning Online “helps you hone your web-searching skills … encourages you to be more critical and discerning in respect of online information”.

So e-books are readily available as online replacements for textbooks, as places where people may be talking about you and as pointers to other resources – but you won’t be able to use them as building blocks for a new house and that’s probably a good thing.

Links of the week

Here is a round-up of news items about information literacy, e-learning and the Virtual Training Suite as picked out by @VTStutorials on Twitter.

  1. Google says that there are 130 million-ish books in the world – bit of nerve criticising other peoples metadata though!
  2. You can now get email updates from this blog at
  3. Looking for video and audio resources? Try these new online tutorials from @jiscdigital & @VTStutorials
  4. RT @giustini Top 100 Ways Librarians Use Social Media (a collaborative list)
  5. CaRILLO: Information Literacy and repurposing learning objects en event report #carillo #carillo10
  6. OpenScholar from @harvard allows scholars to easily create their own websites
  7. RT @jiscdigital Now booking! Brand new training workshop Building Effective Screencasts 16 Sept
  8. “the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of effective and highly skilled researchers” from
  9. RT @lawbore: Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age (NYTimes)
  10. Some changes to the Virtual Training Suite

New tutorials on finding video and audio resources

JISC Digital Media in conjunction with the Virtual Training Suite have launched two new online tutorials: Internet for Audio Resources and Internet for Video and Moving Images.

Screenshot of the Internet for Audio tutorial

The free-to-use tutorials have been designed to assist staff and students within the education sector to locate audio and video for use in teaching and learning.

The existing Internet for Image Searching tutorial has also been refreshed and moved into the new template design.

Full details are available from the JISC Digital Media blog.

CaRILLO: Information Literacy and repurposing learning objects

Carillo was a one day event for developers of information literacy teaching and learning material organised by the University of Birmingham Library. It featured a range of talks on the issues around creating, finding, sharing and re-purposing learning resources in the area of Information Literacy.

Some brief notes about each of the sessions are below:

Rebecca Mogg, Senior Subject Librarian, Information Services, Cardiff University – The Information Literacy Resource Bank (ILRB)

The most widely used parts of the ILRB relate to:

  1. Citations and referencing
  2. Plagiarism
  3. Evaluating information

Rebecca spoke about how they had demand from academic departments to develop materials about the pros and cons of Wikipedia, something we need to tackle explicitly the next time we redevelop the Judge section of the Virtual Training Suite.

Katy Wrathall, former SMILE Project Manager and currently Academic Liaison Team Leader, University of Worcester – The SMILE project: repurposing IL material

This overview of the SMILE project included some valuable lessons about the potential obstacles to re-using learning objects:

  • Licensing and permission issues – academics do not always want to share
  • Students expect subject specific resources, limiting the potential for re-use
  • Without teaching guides, how-to use information or readme files, it isn’t easy to figure out how to re-use a resource

Katy made great use of her image archive on Flickr and one point she made was how we shouldn’t be “information knowledge motorbikes” flying through the air waving at new students about information literacy, but need to get beyond first years to staff, researchers and others.

Tom Boyle, Director of the RLO-CETL, London Metropolitan University – Using GLO Maker to create learning/teaching material

GLO Maker is a free, Open Source piece of software for creating learning objects. It maps these objects to appropriate areas of learning design via in-built templates that:

  • Orient the student – show them what they are learning and why
  • Understand the issues – demonstrate what they need to learn
  • Use the knowledge – test them on what has been learnt by applying it

Tom also made a broader point that feedback in learning objects needs to be rich – more than just right or wrong – as these interactive points are often where students are paying the most attention and where learning can occur.

Nicola Siminson, Jorum Community Enhancement Officer, Mimas, at The University of Manchester – JorumOpen and IL: finding and sharing resources

As someone who has catalogued many resources for JorumOpen, it was interesting to see the other delegates try it out during the hands-on session in the afternoon. They wanted to get to the resources themselves and were often frustrated when a Jorum record was only a web link – similar to the frustrations users may feel when using databases or repositories that only provide the metadata of a resource, rather than the full text.

Catherine Bruen, NDLR Manager, Trinity College Dublin – Community aspects of the National Digital Learning Repository

The NDLR aims to “support greater collaboration in developing and sharing of digital teaching resources and associated teaching experience across all subject disciplines and communities of academics”. They do so via a a repository of resources, providing a space for academic Communities of Practice to grow and by funding development projects.

Repurposing learning objects

The afternoon featured hands-on workshops and the session on repurposing learning objects brought together some issues from all of the talks.

A key selling point for learning objects and Open Educational Resources generally is their supposed re-usability, saving people from reinventing the wheel. However, the practicalities of reusing learning objects can sometimes be insurmountable. Licensing restrictions, proprietary file formats (Flash), making items generic without dumbing down or having to insert / remove branding – all these things can get in the way. So some important questions remain.

  • If a learning object is perceived as being useful, then perhaps it is more important that it is easy to customise or personalise, than to change its purpose?
  • Is it enough to be inspired by a good quality learning object, to produce something yourself or to link to a good example from elsewhere?
  • Where does re-purposing stop and recreation start? Is changing the content and structure of a learning object a bit like replacing the brush and handle on a broom?

An excellent and thought provoking day – many thanks to all at the University of Birmingham Library for organising it and hopefully there will be a CaRILLO 2 in the not too distant future.

Library day in the life project – Monday

So I’m taking the plunge for the Library day in the life project – Round 5 – the idea being to log your day / week and share with the world that librarians do a lot more than you may realise – a laudable aim indeed – so here’s Monday

I should start with introductions – I work on the Virtual Training Suite, a set of free Internet tutorials to help student develop Internet research skills for their university course, but this is not a typical week – it’s the last week that I work for Intute, the database of academic website – I’ve been with Intute (nee SOSIG) for the last 5 years specialising in the Social Sciences (Economics and Education) and learning technologies.

The day starts abruptly at 8 AM with a loud and unwelcome alarm – ah, the joys of rampant insomnia. My day will be full of inputs, media, screens and other stuff screaming for my attention, so I deliberately begin the day quietly – no TV, radio, e-mail checking, just a silly comedy podcast like The Now Show or Answer Me This to accompany me on the short walk to work, and put me in a good mood.

The communications catch-up from the weekend usually takes longer, but it appears that it has been fairly quiet since Friday, so I can concentrate on my “Informational Nerve Centre” or Google Reader to normal people. I track mentions of Intute and the Virtual Training Suite across the web, repost some items to the VTStutorials Twitter channel and keep a few things unread to return to later.

Next week I’m off to an event on Creating and Re-using Information Literacy Learning Objects (CaRILLO) which looks very interesting. One of the things we will be looking at in the coming year, is making the Virtual Training Suite more relevant to the Information Literacy community, so this is a great opportunity to learn more about their needs and what they are doing already.

As background reading I plough through the JISCmail Lis-InfoLiteracy list and a call for contributions to the development of a UK Online IL Assessment Question Bank has a nice summary of Information Literacy issues – a quick copy and paste to Wordle, helps me get to grips with the key topics …

Time for lunch before an afternoon of meetings, but not before a wondrous distraction in the form of Jane Austen’s Fight Club – very silly indeed!

The afternoon is dominated by our last ever Intute: Social Sciences meeting – an audio hook-up with our colleagues at the University of Birmingham who we have worked with over the last few years.

There’s little actual business to discuss, just a few odds and ends, as we hand over the Internet Resource Catalogue to the gang at Mimas, who will be maintaining it during the final year of Intute. Much more importantly we get the chance to pool our knowledge about what our colleagues at the seven Universities that made up the Intute consortium are getting up to in the future – it seems as though most have found lifeboats of one form or another, which is a relief to know.

The afternoon ends a little earlier than normal, as our boss takes us out to the Hope and Anchor, an idyllic pub with a great beer garden to mark the passing of Intute: Social Sciences (nee SOSIG). We are joined by a few “friends and family” who have worked on the service over the years, including the original project director who got the grant for the pilot service back in 1993!

It’s a nice send-off to mark the end of an era – more of a fond farewell, than a wake.

As for this librarydayinthelife stuff – I think it will have to be edited highlights for the rest of the week!

Links of the week

Here is a round-up of news items about information literacy, e-learning and online resources as picked out by @VTStutorials on Twitter.

  1. First Annual Report of Three Year (BL/JISC) Study: ‘Researchers of Tomorrow’ 10:22 AM Jul 22nd v
  2. RT: @mattlingard: Social Media Changing Education? a plea for evidence not anecdotes by @Neil_Selwyn
  3. Google Image Search gets a makeover is this an improvement?
  4. RT: @_UCLsciencelib_: Mendeley (reference manager software) iPhone app now available in the app store & it’s free:
  5. try @govsub the channel that gathers videos published by UK government YouTube channels in one place
  6. RT @ScottHibberson: New blog post from “Sharing Good Practise on Information Skills” round-up of #infolit links + tips
  7. RT: @mattlingard: What is Digital Literacy? Diagram from Futurelab handbook:
  8. 21st Century Fluency Project – resource designed to cultivate 21st century fluencies, while fostering engagement and adventure in the learning experience.
  9. RT @touchthecloud Awesome video about Information Overload “InfoWhelm and Information Fluency”
  10. follow @aliss_info for updates from ALISS the independent group for social science librarians