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Open Educational Resources (OER): Finding OER: Search Strategy

This libguide is designed to help students, faculty, and staff learn about and use Open Educational (OER) and Open Access resurces as well as Creative Commons and Copyright.

Search Strategy

Finding the Open Educational Resources (OER) you need for the course can be as simple as conducting a search or a real adventure in sleuthing. If you experience any trouble or frustration searching for OER on your own, please contact a librarian. 

Here are some steps for finding OER to incorporate into your classes. You may not need to go through every step and you may want to tackle them in different a different order. Before proceeding, be sure you are familiar with the definition of OER and Creative Commons CC licenses. You can find more information on the Is it OER? part of this libguide. 

Search strategy- Step 1: Plan.

Step 1: Plan. 

Consider your goals

Are you hoping to move away from students needing to purchase a textbook to be successful in your course? Or do you just want to find materials to supplement your current textbook and readings? Or do you just want to find materials to supplement your current textbook or readings? Your strategy for searching may vary accordingly.

Keep a record of your searches

Because you may end up needing to search several places for OER, it's a good idea to keep a record of where you look, which terms you use (and what categories you browse through), and what you find. You may want to use a citation manager like Zotero to create a folder and keep track of what you find OR  use this OER Treasure Hunt Worksheet, created by Abbey Elder and Stacey Katz as part of their OER Starter Kit Workbook, as an example.1    


1.  The OER Starter Kit Workbook by Abbey K. Elder & Stacy Katz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Search Strategy- Step 2: Brainstorm search terms. 

Step 2: Brainstorm search terms. 

You may think of other terms as you search, but having a good list going before you start may prevent the need to go back and search sources again. 

Course Level 

Brainstorm and jot down terms that might be used to describe your course as a whole. Pull from the course title but go further. Does your course go by a different name at other colleges and universities? Are there other ways to express your subject? Do any of the terms you identified have spelling variations ( example: behavior and behavior - you may need to search both.)

Outcome/Unit/Content Level 

You may need to search for smaller blocks of content than an entire textbook or course that matches yours. Take a close look at your learning outcomes and your course content to come up with additional keywords you can use as your search. Include common synonyms (other words people in your field use to discuss the concept) and spelling variations as before. 

Search Strategy- Step 3: Search within specific OER repositories or using OER-specific search engines.

Step 3: Search within specific OER repositories or using OER-specific search engines. 

Searching by keyword is just one option. Also, use the browsing function within each repository to locate resources your keyword searches may have missed. 

Think big: Look for complete open courses. 

You can use ( and modify!) an entire course, a portion of a course, or just the reading list-- whatever is relevant to your needs. See the complete course of the "Dig Deeper" page of this guide for places to look. If you don't find your exact course, look for something similar.

Think big: Look for OER Textbooks. 

If you are hoping to replace your current textbook with one that is open and free for your students, you may b tablet find complete OER textbooks to review and use. See the Open Textbook section on the "Dig Deeper" page. If you don't find one for your exact course, look for something similar that you can pull from.

Think small: Look for smaller chunks of content. 

Instead of focusing on the textbook that you would like to replace, focus on your course outcomes: What you would like students to know to be able to do. You may need to use several materials that address different components of your course, especially if yours isn't a high enrollment course nationwide. 

Creative Common License

Creative Commons License

This work is adapted from a LibGuide by D'Arcy Hutchings which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

You may reproduce, reuse, or remix any part of it for noncommercial purposes as long as credit is included. We encourage you to license your derivative works under Creative Commons as well to encourage sharing and reuse of educational materials. Note that linked content is covered by its own licenses.


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