Monday, January 23, 2023

A Classic Search Lesson from My Archives

The "memories" feature is just about the only thing I like about Facebook these days. This morning Facebook reminded me of a memory from my first time attending the BETT Show in London back in 2014. That memory included a first-hand reminder of why you should consider other words and phrases when conducting research. Here's what I wrote about the experience nine years ago...

I’m currently in London, England for the BETT Show and TeachMeet BETT 2014. As is the case with most flights going to Europe from the east coast of the U.S. my flight left in the evening and arrived in London in the middle of the morning. This meant that I was too early to check into my hotel. I knew this ahead of time and figured that I could probably check my luggage at the ExCel Conference Center where the BETT Show is being held. I wanted to confirm this ahead of time so I spent some time searching on the BETT and ExCel websites for “coat check,” “bag check,” “coat room,” and “bag storage” in the hopes of confirming my assumption. My searches were fruitless.

Eventually I confirmed my assumption about a baggage check when I stumbled upon a map of the conference center. In browsing around the map I discovered a “cloakroom.” When I hear “cloak” I instantly think of the Count Chocula character from the cereal boxes of the 1980’s (my mother never let us eat that kind of cereal despite our pleas). I never thought to use the word “cloak” in any of my searches for information about storing my jacket and small bag for the afternoon. Cloak is just not a regular part of my American vernacular.

I have no doubt that students sometimes run into roadblocks in their searches for the same reason that I didn’t find anything in my searches; we’re stuck in our own vernacular. Had I used a thesaurus when I got stuck, I probably would have found the word cloak and confirmed my assumptions about checking my luggage for the day. The lesson here is when your search has hit a roadblock, try a thesaurus to find words that might lead you to better search results.

P.S. that trip to the BETT Show also lead me to meeting Sophie Ellis-Bextor without knowing that she was famous. That's a story for another time.