Thursday, December 22, 2016

Five Strategies to Help Students Conduct Better Informational Searches

Google is great for navigational and transactional searches. If you need to find your way to the movie theater or find the best price for a vacuum cleaner, Google handles those requests quite well. Searches for more meaningful information aren't always handled well by Google. For example, see the some of the nonsense "suggested" search terms that sometimes appear with your search. To break away from the cycles of Google's suggested searches and typical search results, students need to employ some solid search strategies. Here are five strategies that can help students conduct better informational searches.

1. Create a list of things that you already know about the topic. This helps students pick better keywords and helps them more quickly identify information that may not be relevant to their searches.

2. Develop of list of ways that other people might talk about your topic. I will let students poll their peers for ideas about how they would describe the topic.

3. Search by file type. A lot of good information is hidden way inside of PDFs, Word files, KML files, PowerPoint, and spreadsheet files. Unfortunately, those file types generally don't rank high in commercial search engines so students will need to search by file type to find those files.

4. Try a different search engine. Contrary to what a lot of students think, Google is not the only search engine. Your school library probably has a subscription to a database or two that students can search within and find resources that a Google search won't find. Students can also try Google Scholar, Google Books, Bing, Choosito, or Yahoo.

5. Search within webpages and documents for clues that can help you form your next set of search terms. As they read through webpages and documents students should be taking note of things like how the author is describing a topic. Students can then use that description to help them form their next search queries.

I will cover all of these strategies in more depth in Search Strategies Students Need to Know