Category Archives: TLS Tips

TLS Tips: Resource Spotlight – Women’s Magazine Archive

Hayley Morgenstern, Ask a Librarian Intern, with our next Resource Spotlight…

Women’s Magazine Archive





Features Full-Text Publications of magazines useful for students in

WGS, Sociology and Psychology, History, Communications, and Advertising/Marketing interested in social and cultural constructions of gender.

Coverage Period (varies per publication): (1880s-2005)

Publications: Better Home and Gardens (1925-1961), Chatelaine (1940-2005), Good Housekeeping (1886-1972) Ladies’ Home Journal (1887- 1954), Parents (1949-1972), Redbook (1903-2002

-Includes Advertisements, and non-article content. Detailed Indexing makes this content easily accessible
Topics Include:
• Consumer Culture
• Economies/Marketing
• Family Life
• Fashion
• Gender Studies
• Health and Fitness
• Home and Interior Design
• Popular Culture
• Social History

Access Women’s Magazine Archive Here:

* Image Found in One-Step Search of ‘Lysol and Feminine Hygiene’

Hayley Morgenstern
Ask a Librarian Intern
University of Texas at Austin
MS, Information Studies, 2017
MA, Women and Gender Studies, 2017

social explorer logo

TLS Tips: Resource Spotlight – Social Explorer

 Social Explorer is a useful tool for helping answer questions about U.S. demographics. It enables users to focus on a particular geographic area, such as a state, city, town or neighborhood. Users can also build tables to compare historical Census data.

The visualization tools help researchers create, customize and display their demographic projects and reports. Social Explorer would be an excellent resource for researchers in history, geography, public health, and the social sciences.

Building reports with Social Explorer Tables is a bit easier. The maps and other visualization tools are more complicated, so encourage researchers to use the Help pages and tutorials.

Users can browse 220 years of census data with tens of thousands of maps, hundreds of reports, over 400,000 variables and 40 billion data elements.

You can access current and historical demographic data, including US data:

  • S. Census data from 1790 to 2010
  • American Community Survey data from 2005 to 2014 (this is data is based on sampling, but contains more demographic and social data than Census)
  • FBI Uniform Crime Report data (2010 and 2012)
  • American election results (1912 to 2014)
  • Religious Congregations and Membership Study (1980 to 2010)
  • Vulcan Project carbon emissions data (2002)
  • County Health Rankings and Roadmaps Program data (2010 to 2016)

and International data: 

  • United Kingdom Census (2011)
  • Canadian Census (2011)
  • Eurostat (1990, 2000, 2010 to 2013)
  • World Development Indicators (2013)
  • Irish religion and population data (1911 to 2001)

You can also visualize data:

  • Create custom and user-friendly maps
  • Explore interactive maps with over 200 years of data
  • Compare maps using the Side-By-Side Maps Tool to display 2 maps at once
  • Create data reports with the Reporting Tools in Excel, CSV, and other file formats
  • Use the Swipe Map Tool to visualize differences between variable and time periods
  • Use the Storyboard Tool to create multi-map presentations
  • Save, share and manage your projects using your My Explorer account

Social Explorer can be accessed by searching in the Database tab in scoUT. Users will also need to create a personal account in order to use the PRO edition of Social Explorer remotely, and to save, share and collaborate on projects.

Laura Gienger
(pronouns she/her/hers)
Ask a Librarian Intern, Perry-Castañeda Library
MSIS Candidate, School of Information Spring 2017
The University of Texas at Austin


TLS Tips: Bubbles and Branches

As part of our assessment plan in our unit, TLS measures students’ ability to brainstorm an effective keyword strategy in pre and post tests administered to UGS students at the beginning and end of each semester. Our latest findings indicate that students are struggling with this skill, which has us experimenting with new ways of teaching this concept in our instruction. Additionally, one new ACRL framework for info lit is ‘Searching as Strategic Exploration‘, which focuses on the iterative process of searching, as well as emphasizing divergent (brainstorming) and convergent (selecting the best source) thinking. It also mentions ‘searching language’ and managing searching processes and results effectively.

The first attempt I made to reformulate my approach was thinking about concept (or mind) mapping, something that students may already be familiar with from their K-12 years. Do you remember these things? I don’t remember them being helpful, but then again, I typically treated school as a ‘run the clock out’ situation:


My brain will not let me look at those.

There are a few tools online to facilitate concept/mind mapping. Here are some brief reviews of the ones I played with this semester. Here’s what that looks like:


With the free account (which you have to sign up for), this tool allows you to create a concept map to save and share (up to three times, then you gotta $). There is not a ton of flexibility with this tool.

Padlet isn’t primarily for concept/mind mapping and at first, I was ready to dismiss it altogether because it doesn’t allow you to connect ‘bubbles’. But, if you treat it like refrigerator poetry, it’s actually a quick and easy way to organize thoughts. It also allows you attach files to a bubble and store notes.


Free Mind is an open source tool that requires download. I can see using this in an ‘everything but the paper’ assignment more so than in a one shot. There is a ton of flexibility and functionality and the maps are easy to reorganize. You can attach files and images and hide ‘branches’ of your map for organization.

Coggle was instantaneously simple to use, had a helpful side menu always visible, and had some customization options. It  has options for collaboration, so I can see using it in classes with group projects. It requires a google login, so that’s not great for one shots.

What is helpful about these tools is malleability. You can usually (but not always easily) drag bubbles and branches to reorganize your thoughts. You can also insert links and files into many of these tools, making the storage of article references easier. Besides the logistics of accessing (download or account sign up) these tools, the other thing that is unhelpful to instruction sessions is that the discovery aspect (mining databases and background info) exists outside the tool. The simple act of switching from window to window is annoying.

So, what’s been my answer so far? Paper! I’ve been experimenting with a worksheet that walks students through choosing a database and mining titles, abstracts and subject terms for keywords, then experimenting with searches and winnowing down approaches. Informal assessment makes me want to pursue this approach further. I’m tweaking the worksheet to encourage mental flexibility – realizing that the first search is not usually the best, that we need to reformulate keywords as our research progresses, and that a good search involves browsing and the serendipitous discovery of information. Tall order, huh? I have collected these sheets from two classes and can definitely see students working through the process, if only superficially. In one class, I incorporated a peer review piece and had students talk through their research strategy with another student. On paper, this isn’t easy to assess, but all of us have had the experience of talking through a topic with a student and seeing improvement.

Keyword brainstorming is not something students would do if we didn’t tell them to, so introducing an online tool to help them work through this process seems excessive. But, maybe I’m not thinking it through all the way. And, I wonder if my reticence toward these tools is that I’m sort of a messy thinker. I jot stuff down in a frenzy and then insist on my own organizational structure, which would never be bubbles and branches.

Can you see yourself using these tools in a class, whether in a one shot or in a flipped classroom approach? What strategies do you use when talking to students about keywords?


TLS TIP: Taking a Teaching Leap

It seems that every second of the last month has been spent working through technical and logistical issues in the Learning Labs and as a result, I confess I often forgot why they seemed like a good idea in the first place.   This week Shiela and I worked with a UGS class where the professor gave us full license to “take the Learning Lab for a spin,” as he said. And we did. And then I remembered why we built them to begin with.

Constructivism and active learning – we talk about these things quite a bit.  We try to employ a combination of learning by discovery and guided learning into our classes, and to recognize what knowledge our students already bring into the classroom and build upon that.   We try not to lecture or talk for too long at any stretch.  We try to assess along the way with Q&A and do quick assessments at the end with a 3-2-1 or muddiest point.   I’ve always felt that I was doing a pretty decent job of teaching students what I wanted them to learn in our old classrooms.

But in the class this week in a Learning Lab, I learned so much about how our students are (or are not) learning what we are trying to teach them.  We were able to address the learning gaps right there in the class. It was messy, sometimes uncomfortable but also really fun and energizing – just like learning is supposed to be!

If anyone wants to see our whole class outline, I’m happy to share it but I want to focus on one part.   Students needed to know how to find scholarly articles, which means they needed to be able to use our databases, including some tricky Classics ones.  One of the exercises we did that took up the bulk of class time was to give each group a database, have them figure it out and teach it to the rest of the class.  We handed out this exercise (below) and had each group collaborate around a different flat panel.  Then as each group was teaching their database to the rest of the class, we sent that group’s flat panel around to all of them.

We saw them struggling with all of the databases, not just the  Classics databases.  Even JSTOR which seems like an easy one, was difficult.  As they taught the rest of the class, Shiela, the professor and I were able to ask them clarifying questions and clear up misconceptions.  They presented what they were confident they knew but they were often a little (or a lot) off the mark and we were able to address that right there.  It made me wonder what misconceptions every other student I’ve taught still carries around with them.

The down side – we covered a lot less ground.  The up side – they seemed to learn it better.  I’ll be getting copies of their assignments for further assessment but I left that session feeling inspired!

Before sharing my thoughts with the professor, I asked him what he thought, and here is what he had to say.

“I thought it was fantastically successful, although of course the real proof will be in their preliminary bibliographies for the research paper… I really liked the group component, and I thought that having them explain the databases to each other was a great strategy. And having seen those screens work in practice, I’m completely convinced.

… my general impression was that this format was far more effective than our previous versions — not that those weren’t great too, but there’s something about working through a particular problem and sharing the results that makes the databases and the process more concrete to everyone.”

So there you have it.  If anyone else has already tried something new in the Learning Labs, please let me know or share in the comments.


Use your assigned database to find a source that you would use for this assignment.  Be prepared to teach this database to your fellow-students by demonstrating a search and telling them the answers to the following questions.

  1. What database are you using? What is it good for/what would you find in it?
  1. Show a search. If possible, show or explain how you’d find the full text of the article.
  1. What tips or suggestions do you have for using this database?


TLS TIP: Stray observations/tips on using our new Learning Labs

I will start by saying that so far, I LOVE teaching in the new Learning Labs. I was a bit apprehensive coming into the semester without much time to practice using the new technology (I have, at times, been accused of over-preparing) but my first few sessions pretty much got me past that fear. I’m working on transitioning a lot of my old session outlines into more interactive, student-centered formats, but admittedly, I have a way to go.  Since we’re all busy at this time of the year, I’ll make this post short and sweet and share a few stray observations and suggestions I have in regards to our Learning Labs

1) Use the group structure to your advantage

As admitted above, I haven’t yet infused active learning into my teaching as thoroughly as I’d like to. Despite this, I’ve still noticed that the students seem much more relaxed sitting down at group tables with their own devices (as an aside, I’ve started asking faculty members to have their students bring them, and placing a laptop cart in the room for anyone who forgot) than they did in rows with immoveable laptops. When I ask them to work in a group, they seem primed to do so. I’ve also observed that having them do group work activities, like coming up with evaluation criteria by looking at a website, that make use of on the closest flat screen tends to help with engagement. Whereas previously, students would often default to looking at their own computer and have to be prodded to talk in a small group, the shared space and technology seems to invite discussion. Directing students complete tasks as a small group, then report back to the big group, is a fairly easy entree into using the student-controlled screen capability. I recommend trying it out!

2) Minimize distraction

Grace and I co-taught a class in Learning Lab 2, and set the room up so that the instructor laptop connected to the overhead projector, and individual student groups connected to the flatscreens. This was great during group work, but I found myself getting distracted by students following along on the screens while Grace showed them databases. Easy fix! From now on, I will make sure that anytime groupwork is not being done, I will either freeze student panels, or send the instructor laptop to all panels.

3) Mix it up and capture results

I’ve also made use of the whiteboards throughout the room, having students answer questions or brainstorm on them. I like that this gets them moving around a little, but I lamented to Sarah that I couldn’t capture their work for assessment this way. She great idea of using my iPad to snap photos of the whiteboards for assessment. Why didn’t I think of that? Remember that you don’t have to incorporate all of the technology into every activity. I prefer to mix it up a little.
I know that y’all have ideas and observations of your own by now, and we’d love to hear how you’re adjusting to the Learning Labs, too! As always, let us know if you have questions or ideas.

TLS TIP: Background Knowledge for the Win!

Captain Obvious says: “Students don’t come to us as blank slates.”  Though we know this as teachers, we don’t always plan ways to activate and connect students’ prior knowledge to whatever is being taught.  I’m often guilty of this because I have so much to get through in a session.  After learning more about the utility of activating students’ background knowledge, though, it is something I’ll be making more time for in the future.  

If you are also interested in this topic, I recommend picking up a copy of How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (print/ebook), which illuminates what happens in students’ brains during class.  Each chapter is an expanded literature review, summarizing and explaining the research on various aspects of learning, and offering concrete ideas for putting this research into action.  For this TLS tip, Chapter 1: “How Does Students’ Prior Knowledge Affect Their Learning?” will be my focus.  This chapter highlights the importance of connecting content to students’ existing knowledge, and argues that this is an effective way to increase their retention and attention.  Though activating background knowledge can come with issues (such as incorrect or insufficient knowledge), the authors of this book make a strong case that this can and should be a part of good pedagogical practice and that these issues can be ameliorated through good planning.  

The authors deal with this topic deeply, but I was particularly interested in the idea of what they called “elaborative interrogation,” or “asking students questions specifically designed to trigger recall” (16-17) studied by Woloshyn, Paivio, and Pressley (available here).  This strategy, asking students not only to remember something, but to engage with the information, increased retention, and could easily be applied to information literacy instruction.  By bringing in a variety of research, Ambrose et al. were able to convincingly argue that teachers need to engage with students’ prior knowledge so that we can help them recall information more effectively, and understand what level they’re at when we meet them.     

Activating background knowledge is an important consideration when we think of our students’ learning, but how do we go about doing this in our new learning labs?  I think there are two times ripe for turning students’ minds to what they might already know about a subject – before you meet with them and during your session, and I have a few strategies for each situation.  These strategies were informed by How Learning Works.  

Before class:

It isn’t always possible, but if you’re lucky enough to have students do some kind of prep for the session, this can be a great time to encourage students to activate background knowledge!  Think about asking students to:

  • Write a paragraph (or list) on what they already know about a given subject.  If they submit it beforehand, you’ll have an idea of the concepts you still need to target during your session.    
  • Brainstorm what they know, and where they see gaps in their knowledge.  This can have the added benefit of drawing the student’s attention to the idea that he or she has something to learn, and again can allow you to target your session more effectively.     

During class:

  • If you’ve had students do anything beforehand, this is a good time to lead a discussion about it, remember the concept of “elaborative interrogation” discussed above – think about what questions would draw out knowledge and connect it to class concepts.
  • Have students brainstorm what they know about a topic – use the whiteboards or individual flat panels in our new space.  You can ask students to respond to a set of specific questions or to a more general prompt like “tell me what you know about…”  
    • I have had good results doing carousels, in which students move around the room in groups, answering questions on individual whiteboards.  As students circulate around the room and answer each question, they add to the answers the previous groups have given.  If you don’t want that much movement, groups can work together on each question at one whiteboard.  For evaluation of sources, the questions could be something like: 1. What clues indicate to you that a website is a trustworthy source of information?  2. What clues indicate to you that a website is not a trustworthy source of information?  3. What do you think your professors mean when they ask you to use quality sources of information?  4. What does the term “scholarly Source” mean to you?
    • This exercise could be done on any concept.
    • After students have finished circulating, you, the instructor have an opportunity to fill in gaps, correct misconceptions, etc, but often the students can, as a group, come up with many of the points themselves.                
  • Have students draw a concept map, beginning with what they know on a topic, and adding more items as they learn, either from research or from discussion.  This can be done in a group, on whiteboards (again, for a topic like evaluation) or on paper either in groups or alone.  Connecting new knowledge to what students already know should help them retain anything new they’re gaining.  This strategy is a great way to get the conversation going and to activate background knowledge in a consultation as well.

What strategies do you use to access what students already know?Please feel free to share in the comments!

Resources for further reading:

Ambrose, Susan A., et. al. How Learning Works : Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. Hoboken: Wiley, 2010.

Woloshyn, Vera E., Allan Paivio, and Michael Pressley. “Use Of   Elaborative Interrogation To Help Students Acquire Information Consistent With Prior Knowledge And Information Inconsistent With Prior Knowledge.” Journal Of Educational Psychology 86.1 (1994): 79-89.

TLS Tips: Playing to Learn

As we brought up the Media Lab over the past year, Andy and I have had to think about creative and interesting (well hopefully interesting) ways to ensure that our Media Lab Assistants have a baseline level of skill in the most frequently used digital media programs. Since this software is supposed to help communicate creativity, we really wanted this training to be fun. By the end of the year the students had created individual projects with accompanying tutorials to help reinforce teaching skills as well as digital media software creation skills and we heard from them that they were overall pleased with the training.

What does this have to do with my TLS tip? Well, thanks to Krystal’s last post, I’ve been reflecting on this year and realized that much of it has been focused on encouraging play and experimentation with new tools and software. While I didn’t focus on hot new tech tools like Apple Watches or Google Glass (RIP), I did look at software that could complement teaching like Guide on the Side, Audacity, and Google Forms.  Sometimes the tools worked well and were easy to implement and I could see clear applications for using this tool. Other times, like in the TIS Sandbox where a group of us played with Guide on the Side we encountered some software hiccups, but knowing that this was a common experience made it easier to laugh off and find a workaround.  We were more resilient when encountering software issues when we were together because we could use one another as resources and it was a collaborative learning experience. Going forward into the Fall, we’re going to be experimenting with technology in the classroom once the Learning Labs are open and operational.  There will be training and more opportunities for collaborative learning in these spaces!

In the process of doing research on how best to approach adult acquisition f technology skills, our recently graduated GRA, Grace Atkins, came across a great article about technology and Life Long Learning habits.  Below I’ve excerpted their philosophical approach to lifelong learning, which I feel is especially apt as we head into a  new academic year under new leadership and in brand new learning spaces.

The habits are the following:
1. Begin with the end in mind.
2. Accept responsibility for your own learning.
3. View problems as challenges.
4. Have confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner
5. Create your own learning toolbox.
6. Use technology to your advantage.
7. Teach/mentor others
7½. Play.

So, I suppose this TLS tip is not so much a tip but instead encouragement to allow yourself to get messy when playing with new things. Even if you don’t see an application for something right away, it might come in handy later.

And, just for fun, here are some of the tools and apps I’ve been playing with recently and why:

  • IFTTT (IF This Then That): Uses “recipes” to connect programs and automate tasks; an easier and slicker Yahoo Pipes.
    How I use it: organize spreadsheets – I get monthly Canvas reports that I tell to upload to a folder in Box.
  • An app and web-based calendar that integrates multiple calendar (OWA, Google Calendar, iCal, Facebook events and birthdays)
  • Padlet: An way to create an online bulletin board that integrates audio, images, and video in addition to text. Great for brainstorming and for visual learners.

What tools, software, or web apps are you playing around with?

TLS TIPS: Summertime…and the teaching is easy

The end of the semester always feels weird to me. As classes wind down and I find myself with more open blocks in my calendar, it usually takes me a while to transition from the stop-and-go pace of class planning to the long haul of projects that I have lined up for the summer. It can be all too easy to set the teaching aspect of my job largely aside for a few months, but I know I’ll be better off in the fall if I use the slower pace of summer to work on my teaching practice. I searched online to see if I could find any good ideas for  ways to systematically think about teaching during the summer, and found a post on the ProfHacker blog focused on “looking backward and forward” at the end of the academic semester. While some of the tips are specific to faculty (let’s all be glad we don’t have grades to submit), many of the ideas translate to our work. Here are a few things I plan to do this summer to keep my mind on my teaching and my teaching on my mind.

Review & renew online teaching materials

I often forget that the students I teach are likely to spend more time with the course research guides I create than they spend with me in the classroom. When I’m in a hurry to plan classes, the course guide sometimes becomes an afterthought. Summer is a great time to take an in-depth look at SubjectsPlus guides and other online materials we use and refresh them where needed. I plan to spend some time creating at least one brand new guide for a class that I know I’ll work with in the fall so that when things do get busy, I’ll have a great template to use for other guides. In TLS, we usually review and update our “how-to guides” during the summer. If you see something that needs our attention, let us know.

Revisit conference notes/bookmarks/inspiration

I’m sure we’ve all experienced it. You go to a conference and see tons of great ideas, but jump right back into the fray before you can put anything into action. I’m going to set aside some time this summer to go through my notes from ACRL and find things I want to try in the fall. Since I’ll be revamping a lot of my lesson plans anyway to prepare for our new Learning Labs, this is a great opportunity to take a closer look at my teaching practices overall to make sure they don’t get too stale. I also have a list of articles and links I bookmarked throughout the semester that I didn’t have time to fully investigate. Many of these are related to using technology in the classroom, so I’ll use the summer to make a short list of things I want to try out when the Learning Labs are ready.

Look at data & feedback

I can’t seem to write one of these posts without sneaking in something about assessment. I usually spend a lot of time in the summer analyzing data, so assessment is already on my mind. I think that summer is the perfect time to look for trends in how are students might be changing and what’s working or not working in our teaching. Something I’ve been thinking about lately (and that seems to be reflected in our UGS post-test results) is how difficult it is to fully convey the keyword brainstorming process, especially when students are at the beginning stages of refining their topic selection. I’m not sure how to approach this issue differently (let me know if you have ideas) but the data I’ve been looking at reminded me to think about it. If you have any feedback or data to review, now is the time to do it. If not, personal reflection can help you pinpoint specific areas to focus on.

Before we know it, summer will be over and we’ll be back to the grind. Do you have any tips for using this time to improve your teaching? Please comment if you do.

TLS Tips: Choosing a Topic…during the one shot?

There are two types of one shot instruction sessions – the ones where students arrive with really well-formed and researchable topics in hand – and the rest. I feel like this semester I got mostly the latter.  Don’t we all? Even when the professor assures you that students will have topics in hand, even when you’ve worked with the class in the past.

But conversations with other librarians lately have made me question this approach of emphasizing topic selection before the instruction session. Selecting a topic is research (check out this video from NCSU), afterall, and we want to teach students that research is an iterative process. We have all had the experience of working with a student who has either chosen a topic on which there is little written, or who has written an entire paper and needs to shoehorn in three sources by 5pm.

So, I’ve thought of a few ways to come at teaching students how to choose and refine a topic in the instruction session. This tactic was the most interactive and fun, but I’m eager for suggestions. I’m excited to experiment with it next semester and make the exercise better.

The class was about vampires and they had to compare and contrast vampiric folklore with one of the other texts they were reading in the class. This sort of made topic exploration easier, because basically they had to find themes common in both of the works. So, asking them to follow along, I first I demoed searching Beauty and the Beast OR La belle et la bete (one of their readings) in Academic Search Complete.  I asked them to pull out keywords that they thought were interesting (the key to this is to get students to do all the work). Some of the keywords that came up in the search were desire, queer, sexuality, gender, body image, feminism, violence. Now they had a list of keywords that came up in the titles or subjects that they could brainstorm broader or narrower terms from. We then took those keywords and added them to vampire, as in ‘vampire and queer’. Then we went over how to use AND and OR to diversify your search. Students were excited to play around with how adding and subtracting keywords changed results significantly and sometimes led them down new paths of discovery. We brainstormed what this fake paper would be about and what articles would be most relevant. I thought some of the fake titles the students came up with were great!

Doing topic selection this way allowed me to talk about a few key things we always cover in instruction sessions – how to brainstorm broader and narrower keywords, how to link them up with AND and OR, and, something we don’t typically cover, how to examine a results list in a database quickly and effectively.

During active learning time I worked with students on their keywords and helped them follow their topics down all the winding paths research takes us down. They seemed to be having fun. But, then again, their class is about vampires.

Do you ever go over topic selection in one shots? Please tell me about it!