Thursday, May 10, 2007

Teaching Medline to Medical Students

I am very excited, starting with the new incoming class of medical students I will be teaching three one hour classes on Medline to the medical students. I have noticed that many of medical students coming to us were fairly unfamiliar with Medline (either PubMed or Ovid) and were really struggling to do research. After some questions and some gentle probing I learned that the students were not taught Medline in their first two years at school because they weren't doing the type of research that warranted using Medline. In their third and fourth years the medical students began hospital rotations and were on the medical school campus less frequently. However, this was also the time where they are expected to do a lot more in depth research and writing. From what I could tell, there was no formal training on how to do research once students entered into their third and fourth years. I was teaching them one at a time whenever I could get a chance, fifteen minutes here, a half hour there. But there was no official time to teach them and I was only able to reach the students who sought help.

Well now I am added to the education schedule! Instead of 15 minutes here and there, I get three classes for an hour each class. While I am a very excited about this, I am going to have to sit down and figure out what I want to teach them. My method of teaching Medline to the students has been more akin to speed dating, try and reach as many people as quickly as possible to make a connection. While it is definitely not the best method for teaching, they rarely had time for anything else and at least it got my foot in the door for follow up questions.

I thought I would ask what you would do and teach in three one hour classes on how to do Medline. What are things you have learned that work well, that don't work well? what are some good search questions that illustrate certain aspects of searching Medline? What about mini pre and post test to see how much they have learned? The table is open for discussion, feel free to post your thoughts. We can all benefit from the sharing of ideas.



At 5:13 PM, M.L. Zafron said...

1 hour goes very fast. I wouldn't attempt pre and post testing until you've done this at least once.

Try taking them through the basics. Make sure you show them how to get to the full text. You should have time to get into MeSH, subheadings, and keywords. Possibly even showing them single citation matcher.

I have examples of what we use at my library if you're interested.

Good luck!

At 7:39 PM, Ratcatcher said...

I posted my response to your post on my blog.

At 10:49 PM, The Krafty Librarian said...

Just to clarify the students will attend three on hour sessions. So I will have three hours total with them. Still not a enough time to teach everything, but it is more than just one one hour session.

At 8:53 AM, Ratcatcher said...

Ah, in that case I would give them assignments to complete on their own before your second and third classes--like 5-10 searches that they have to email to you. That'll get them to practice, and then you can go over the answers in your class.

At 5:44 PM, M.L. Zafron said...

You have 3 sessions! Then you have more options. ratcatcher is right about having them do searches and get them back to you.

Reinforcement is key.

At 11:47 PM, G.Spooner said...

I have found that getting learners invlolved in actually indexing some articles helps them undertsand bibliographic databases better. This assumes that you have some spare printed MESH headings around or that they can search for MESH terms online.

Choose some short items such as letters or comments and get them to work on indexing them in small groups. The later comparison between their attempts at indexing and that done by actual Medline indexers is always interesting.

I think that MESH headings, check tags, explosions, minor and major headings make more sense if participants have actually been in the shoes of an indexer, even for a short time.

At 3:05 PM, Anonymous said...


An update: Evidence Based Nursing (v10 n 3, July 2007) p. 72 has an interesting suggestion of using a "Who wants to be a Millionaire?" type intro to assess the searching skills/experience. Might give you information similar to a pre-test without the boredom factor of a pretest.


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The Krafty Librarian has been a medical librarian since 1998. She is currently the medical librarian for a hospital system in Ohio. You can email her at: