Today I was invited to the VCU Libraries Advisory Committee meeting to provide a demonstration of the database, Opposing Viewpoints in Context. I created a quick facts sheet, and talked for about ten minutes, pointing out the cool things, answering questions, and showing how browsing is better than searching.
The database is a great transition between research in Google and research in the library. Students are going to use Google and Wikipedia anyway, so I normally talk about appropriate uses of it: when you’re coming up with topics, trying to get general information about your topic, and figuring out key people, terms and facts about your topic. Then you should move on to the library to get the good, scholarly sources you need. Opposing Viewpoints is a good place for students to start when they need substantial information, because it looks like a website, not a scary database. You’re more likely to browse, rather than search here. The search function honestly isn’t that great. If you search for addiction, you’ll get a great topic page with tons of resources related to addiction. But if you search for child drug use, you’ll get some content results, but it won’t point you to the resource guide for Addiction. For that reason, I think it’s better to start by browsing, and then search within topic pages, rather than starting by searching the whole database. It focuses on relevance of issues, rather than depth, so it makes it a good place to start for getting ideas and general info, and even though it does provide statistics, reference sources, and academic articles, it’s not the end-all, be-all for your research.
Biggest advantage: It has REALLY up-to-date info. Earlier this week, Boston was hit by a possible terrorist attack, and Opposing Viewpoints featured a photo of the event, which linked to the topic page on National Security.
Also, I’m really getting into using Microsoft Publisher. I created this by starting with a stock template, and modifying it to make it work for me. I’ve done this a few times and it’s worked really well. Faculty at the meeting expressed their appreciation for it!