Joined: 24 Oct 2013
7 Fundamental Internet Search Tips
I was pondering as to what I should post this week on my blog. What could I give to teachers that would be of some assistance to them as they teach their students? As I thought about how teachers today are trying to use technology in their classrooms, I thought about computers and the internet… then it hit me! Search engines! Some of you are either going to assign research assignments and what better way to incorporate technology than to have your students use the internet for their research.
With that in mind, I thought I would post 7 fundamental internet search tips that teachers can use as they instruct their students how to use the internet for research. There are a lot of tips on how to use internet search engines out on the web. But I thought I would compile a list of the tips I use and what I discovered that helped me search and get better results. This is by no means an exhaustive list, I am sure there are others out there on the web that are even more detailed. But I think this list would be a great introduction to how to search the web without being to technical.
I hope you find these tips helpful!
1) Think Before You Search!
I read an article that mentioned of the high school and middle school students last year, more than half of them begin their research by typing a question. Often, the question was simply lifted from the homework assignment. Students read the assignment, didn’t understand it, and hoped that a search engine would magically transform the question into information they understand.
This usually doesn’t happen.
2) When Using Search Engines, Always Use More Than One
Use several search engines on every search. Although major commercial search engines often return similar results, they work differently enough that you should use several search engines for every research project to help you uncover different resources.
You should also start with the search engine that makes the most sense for your search; this isn't always Google or Bing. If you find yourself “addicted” to a single search engine that you use exclusively, you are not learning what you need to become an expert Web researcher. Even within Google itself, you should know how and when to use Google News, Books, Scholar - How to use Google Scholar, Timeline – How to use Google Timeline, and other resources.
3) Key Word Brainstorming
Brainstorm and make a list of key search terms, using mostly nouns, rather than verbs. Create a series of terms that you can search in combinations of two, three or more. When you find a good search result, look at the most important words in it, and add them to your keyword list. Try a series of keyword combinations.
4) Dig Deep to Find Your Treasure!
The best search results are often not at the top—or even on the first page. Some Web sites are very good at making their content rank high in search engines for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of their content.
Thus, results near the top of a search results page may not be useful, while the great sites that make your paper standout may be buried several pages deep. Often, there is just one article on the Web that furnishes critical information; find it, and it makes it much easier both to write your paper, and get a top grade. So look beyond the first few results, and even the first page. Dig deep!
5) Use Special Search Functions to Make the Search Engines Work for You
If your assignment is to explain how bald eagles were saved from extinction, and you search “eagles,” you’ll find a lot of information about a football team from Philadelphia, an aging rock band from California and other types of eagles. You’ll also find articles about bald eagles that have nothing to do with extinction. So if you just type a single word or a question into a search box, you are not using the full power of the search engine to find information.
Studies show that successful researchers use more words in their search than unsuccessful ones. So use combinations of several keywords (See tip 3). Quotation marks are an excellent tool when you are looking for an exact phrase, particularly if one of the words is commonly used.
6) Don’t Believe Everything You Read!
80% of what you read is garbage! At least that is what my 8th grade Civics teacher always told me. but his point is well taken. You can't just take the first thing you read and think it is the gospel truth, at least when you are doing research. You must be a cynic when it comes to research and especially research on the internet.
Searching for information on the Internet is like detective work. You have to be skeptical. You want to find the best information you can, rather than the first thing that “looks good” or “sounds good.” Anyone can publish anything on the Internet, cheaply and quickly. Many search results you get will be either not credible or not entirely relevant. No one thing will tell you if a Web site can be trusted. You must examine every aspect of a site to see if the information is credible, authoritative, accurate and up-to-date.
It is always a good idea to verify critical information by confirming it with multiple sources. If you find a few unrelated, credible Web sites in agreement on an issue, your research may be done. This is not the case if you read something just once.
7) Are You Looking at Primary Sources? Why Not?
The best research sources you can find online will be primary sources, such as newspaper and magazine accounts, letters, diaries, films, photographs and other documents written or recorded at the time of the event. With primary sources, you won’t have to worry about information getting distorted from one interpretation to another.
Here are some tips for finding primary source material.