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Information Literacy Tutorial: Module 1How do I search?

Information Literacy Tutorial Sunsetting

The Information Literacy Tutorial is being replaced by the College-Level Research Tutorial

On July 1, 2021 we completed our year long beta roll out and assessment of the College Level Research Tutorial (CLRT). The CLRT will now be our primary undergraduate library skills tutorial. If you have questions about how to integrate materials from the CLRT in your course, please contact your librarian. Content on searching for, selecting and accessing books can be found int the new Books at UWM guide.

We will remove the link to the Information Literacy Tutorial July 1st, 2022.


Module 1- Explore

Module 1- Glossary Terms

  • Keywords: Important words from your research topic or research question. Keywords are more flexible than phrases or sentences for searching. The more keywords in your search, the fewer search results you will get.
  • Database: A collection of information, usually electronic. Usually refers to a place you can search for articles in journals and magazines. Databases index (or organize) articles, so that they are online and searchable. An example of a UWM database would be: Academic Search Complete.
  • Subjects: To help you find information in the library, databases can be searched in groups by their subject. For example, you can find all of the Health Sciences databases in one list. Or, you may want to search the list of History databases.

Module 1- Theory

What does relevance mean in an era of tailored search results?

While many of us have come to expect relevant search results as part of any web or app search, evaluating the relevance of search results for a college paper requires critical evaluation skills.

Popular Searches

While a restaurant app like Yelp can give you a list of local places to eat, keep in mind that your zip code is a mediating factor in this search. Your zip code limits the results thus building relevance into the search results.

Likewise, you may see ads in Facebook or that seem related to your latest status update or product search. In this case the mediating factor is your FB status or a DVD you recently browsed. But, imagine if you changed one of those mediating factors. If you searched for “Sandburg” using Google in a Milwaukee zip code, the first hit will be “Carl Sandburg Hall”. If you were to do this search in Chicago, the first several results will be about Carl Sandburg’s poetry.

Scholarly Searches

In academic research, popularity and location are not necessarily effective or useful ways to mediate a search. This is why we focus on selecting a set of search terms that will lead to the best results. In academic research, you will choose your vocabulary carefully to build mediating factors into your search, evaluate the results for relevance to your topic and then edit your search with new or different vocabularies as you continue searching.


The contents of the Information Literacy Tutorial may be reused with attribution. Please copy the following into new works based on the Information Literacy Tutorial.
Information Literacy Tutorial by Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at