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Classroom Blogging Activity

July 29, 2013

Class Session Description

This classroom blogging activity is for Introduction to Nursing. This course is the initial nursing course for nursing undergraduate students. It introduces them to the field of nursing, including basic research skills useful for searching medical literature for evidence-based care. As the nursing liaison librarian, I participate in two class sessions for this course. The first session consists of lecture and demonstration about basic to advanced research skills including MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) searching in the leading medical literature online index, PubMed. MeSH searching is a non-intuitive searching technique that eschews general keywords for hierarchical arrangement of specific subject headings, subheadings, limiting to major topics, and “exploding” the search to MeSH phrases lower in the hierarchical arrangement. The second session is completely hands-on. Students use the advanced search techniques to search the medical literature for a topic about an alternative medical subject of their choice. Students are expected to determine the best MeSH phrase, select appropriate subheadings, and limit to the major topic and appropriate limits such as review articles or most recent five years. During the second session, I am available for in-depth personalized assistance in the classroom space.

As might be expected, students are often overwhelmed by these new research skills and often revert to old habits such as searching Google or typing non-standard keywords into PubMed rather than standardized MeSH terms. This leads to irrelevant results and outdated information that could have detrimental effects on healthcare if used in actual practice.

Because I am not the teaching faculty member, but am rather an academic support librarian attending two sessions of a semester-long course, I will need to work closely with faculty on this activity. Faculty have control over all aspects of the course, assignments, activity and assessments. Therefore, I will need their active support to implement any type of activity and assessment. This will involve negotiation with faculty to impress upon them the importance of this activity and its critical place in student learning of research strategies for evidence-based medicine. Because assessment is a tightly controlled department and accreditation endeavor, assessment of blogging content is not a realistic goal. Assessment of blogging participation might be acceptable to faculty. This framework also limits the options available to me when designing this activity.

Learning Objectives

The student will:

  • Select appropriate MeSH terms for alternative medical therapy
  • Search PubMed database with MeSH terms, subheadings and limits
  • Select appropriate, relevant and timely journal articles based on the search
  • Blog about the search experience and future plans for research strategies

Blog Format

Because this activity will be limited to no more than two class sessions and resulting single assignment, it is not worth the effort for students to create their own blogs. Additionally, I do not have the authority to require students to create a blog for this assignment. Unless there is a class blog coordinated by the course teaching faculty member (and there currently is not), separate blogs are not an option. To keep this single assignment as simple and accessible as possible, the best option would be to write a prompt on my blog and request that students reflect and respond to the blog post using comments.


Session One:

Librarian will lecture and demonstrate introduction to library resources, and basic and advanced research skills for PubMed, a medical literature online index. Instruction includes MeSH, subheadings, limits, and accessing full-text of the articles through other databases or interlibrary loan.

Students will sign up for an alternative medicine therapy.

Session Two:

Students will research their topic using keywords, MeSH, subheadings, and limits. The librarian will be in the classroom space for personalized assistance. The librarian will guide students back to advanced searching techniques when they revert to Google and keyword searching.

Blog Assignment:

The librarian will post a prompt on the librarian blog. The prompt will be:

You have learned some advanced research skills in PubMed, and you have selected an alternative medicine therapy to research. Please answer the following questions. Please make sure your name is in the answer so you can receive credit. Add your responses to this blog post through the comments section.

  1. What initial keywords did you use to describe your therapy and search topic? How many and what types of articles do you find when you search with your initial keywords? Do they look relevant? Do you have a reasonable number in the results list to realistically review the most recent five years of articles (titles and abstracts)?
  2. What was the standard MeSH term that you should use for your topic? Is it the same or different as your initial keyword? Did you have any trouble determining a term? Were you surprised by the process of finding the standard MeSH term?
  3. Did you select any MeSH subheadings? Why or why not?
  4. What limits did you apply to your search?
  5. How many and what types of articles did you find when using MeSH and limits? Do they look relevant? Do you have a reasonable number of results to realistically review the last five years of articles (titles and abstracts)?
  6. Compare searching with your initial keyword to searching with MeSH, subheadings and limits. What provided the most relevant and usable results?
  7. What research strategies will you use in your next medical literature research assignment?


I do not have assessment authority in this course. Additionally, assessment in the nursing program is handled at the department level with national testing standards and accreditation considered. Therefore, assessment is limited to participation through blog comments, which I will report to the faculty member. I will track blog responses and respond to questions, concerns and comments as appropriate. I will ask probing questions in response to the blog comments. I will track participation and report participation to the teaching faculty member.

Activity Timeline

Fall 2013

September 30 – Session 1

October 2 – Session 2

October 3-9 – students post blog comments in response to my prompts. Responses to comments as appropriate.

October 10 – blog posts disabled. Participation reported to teaching faculty member.

One Comment
  1. What’s up, of course this paragraph is really good
    and I have learned lot of things from it about blogging.

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