Objective: To review and reinforce search skills learned in the MLA International Bibliography’s free Online Course and to engage students in discussion of academic discourse, particularly with regard to what constitutes evidence in different academic fields. Students will demonstrate competency in limiting searches by date, period, publication type, and national literature and will identify differences in evidentiary standards in different fields of study.

Total estimated class time: 30–45 minutes for instructor-led search activities; 15–30 minutes for discussion.

Course work or assignment underway: For first-year composition and other courses introducing students to research processes, the Online Course is best assigned before students begin to locate sources for their own research projects. For example, instructors might assign the Online Course (as a whole or unit-by-unit), then reinforce and discuss search skills in class, and finally have students submit a list of sources for their own in-progress papers.

Resources needed: In-class MLA International Bibliography access for instructor-led search activities.

Instructor-Led Search Activities

In the Online Course, progression and quiz questions are designed to account for the fact that the number of results for a particular search query can change as more publications are indexed. For example, a question about articles written by Margaret Atwood asks students to restrict their searches to the years 1980–89. Since changes to the number of search results is unlikely to be a concern in the classroom, instructors can create their own in-class questions asking students to limit searches by date, period, publication type, or national literature. Some examples:

  • How many articles about [author] were indexed between [date range in years]?
  • How many publications about e-books (make sure students are using the subject term “electronic book,” as covered in the Keyword vs. Subject Search tutorial) were indexed before 2000?
  • When do articles about [topic] first appear in the MLA International Bibliography?

Class Discussion: Academic Fields and Kinds of Evidence

  • The MLA International Bibliography indexes publications on interdisciplinary fields (i.e., area studies) where those fields coincide with literature, language, and folklore. Students might discuss the definition of interdisciplinary and situations in which they would use the MLA International Bibliography rather than library discovery search services. Discovery services are covered in Lesson 5, but instructors can tailor in-class discussion to the specific databases available to their students.
  • In Lesson 2, students learn that the MLA Thesaurus helps scholars develop a standard, shared vocabulary. Why is a standard, shared vocabulary important?
  • The MLA International Bibliography can help students find evidence to support their arguments. What constitutes evidence in different fields of study? Why are there differences in different fields?
  • Instructors might also consider adapting the Project Based Assignments (Scholarly Conversation and History of Scholarship), which ask students to use the MLA International Bibliography to research the history of scholarship on a particular topic or work or in a professional journal for classroom discussion.