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Research Guides

Finding Sources:

In an age inundated with information, the ability to discern reliable, credible, and relevant sources is a critical skill. By learning how to navigate libraries, online databases, and various media platforms, students cultivate the capacity to distinguish accurate information from biased or erroneous content. These skills empower them to conduct thorough research, formulate well-informed arguments, and contribute meaningfully to academic discourse. Moreover, understanding the principles of source evaluation equips students to be discerning consumers of information in their personal and professional lives. Essentially, the lessons on finding sources lay the foundation for intellectual growth, responsible citizenship, and lifelong learning.

You can access the lesson plan through the tabs above. It takes about 45 minutes on average to conduct the lesson. Preparation includes reviewing the lesson plan and gathering materials such as printouts. If you would like any assistance in preparing for your library instruction, please feel free to schedule a consultation with John, Connor, or Kathleen by following the link in the column to the right.

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Finding Sources Lesson Plan:

A printable version of this lesson plan is available here.

Lesson Name & Topic:

Keywords & Search Statements

Individually and then in small groups of 3, students will brainstorm keywords related to their research topics or questions. They will then practice putting those keywords together in search strings, after an exercise introducing them to Boolean AND/OR/NOT


Students will brainstorm alternate search terms based on their initial research topics.

Students will demonstrate a basic understanding of Boolean operators by creating search queries using their brainstormed search terms.

Time Needed:

30-45-minute class session

15-minute prepartion

  • Go over the lesson plan and gather materials.
  • Print additional copies of the worksheets if necessary to have 1 for each student in class.
Supply List:

Introduction (1 min): Introduce lesson topic

Part 1: Brainstorming keywords from a research question/topic (15 minutes total)

  •  Mini-lecture: Transforming a research topic or question into keywords (slides 2-7)
  • Activity (10 min total): (1 min explanation, 5 mins first brainstorm, 2 minutes 2nd round, 2 minutes 3rd round)

Students will first spend 5 minutes completing the first side of the Keywords & Search Statements worksheet. After their initial brainstorm, they will pass their worksheet to the student on their right, who will spend 3 minutes trying to add to the list of keywords. After 3 minutes, the students will again pass the worksheets to their right  and spend another 3 minutes trying to build on the lists. The worksheets will then be passed back to the original owner.

Part 2: Creating Search Strings (or Statements, or Queries) with Boolean Operators (14 minutes total)

  • Mini-lecture: Creating search queries with Boolean Operators (2 minutes)

Whole-class activity: “Human Boolean” (5 minutes)


Let’s practice the Boolean search operator OR:

  1. Stand if you are currently wearing jeans.
  2. Stand if you are currently wearing jeans OR leggings
    • (if more examples are needed: Stand if you are currently wearing jeans OR leggings OR sweatpants)
  3. Ask: Were there more students standing after the first condition, or at the end?
  4. Everyone can be seated again.

Explain: OR broadens a search by adding more options -- in math terms, it’s the union of sets. A handy way rhyme to remember the difference between AND and OR: “Or means More”

Now, let’s practice the Boolean search operator AND:

  1. First, stand if you have a backpack today
  2. Remain standing if you have a backpack and also an umbrella
  3. Ask: Were there more students standing after the first condition, or at the end?
  4. Everyone can be seated again

Explain: AND narrows a search, by intersecting sets: we started with a large set, all college students, and NARROWED down by adding in a condition, brown hair

Now let’s practice the Boolean search operator NOT:

  • Stand if you’re a college student.
  • Now, remain standing only if you’re a college student who is NOT wearing glasses

Explain: NOT also narrows a search, by exclusion of sets: we started with a large set, all college students, and NARROWED down by removing the set of everyone wearing glasses

Now let’s practice a complicated search query combining AND, OR, and NOT:

  • Stand if you’re wearing glasses
  • Remain standing if you’re also wearing EITHER jeans OR leggings
  • Remain standing if you DON’T have a backpack with you

Explain: Boolean terms can be combined in various ways to control how a search tool treats your terms -- but it’s best to get a feel for how simple queries work first.

Mini-lecture: (1 minute)  Explain other search tricks -- phrase searching truncation, nesting

Hands-on: (5 minutes)

Students will then practice applying their understanding of Boolean operators and other search tricks by completing the 2nd side of the Keywords & Search Strings Worksheet

Wrap up: (1 minute): How to get help: make a research appointment in the OWRC; AskUs chat.


Selected UW Libraries Materials:

PWR Instructor Consultations


Consult with a librarian about assignment design, ideas for information literacy activities, Canvas materials, and other ways to teach your students information research skills.