Unit 5: Search the web

Definition

For most of us, searching for something online means using Google. In fact, the term ‘googling it‘ has become synonymous with searching on the web. Google is highly effective for finding popular sites, news or images, but we can choose from a range of search tools, depending on our search task.

So first, let’s take a closer look at Google.

Google Search

When most people perform a Google search, they enter a few words into the query box then try out the first few results, even though they may have generated several thousand (or even hundreds of thousands!).

But Google has many tools to help users search better. In the image below, three of them are highlighted on the simple search page.

Google search

As soon as you begin typing into the query box, Auto Suggest starts offering possible search terms in its drop-down box to help you find what you really want. It pays to pause and look them over and encourage your students to do the same.

Tip: You’ll find a list of further suggestions at the bottom of Google results pages.

Knowledge Graph is Google’s latest search tool and it works in a whole new way. Google calls it “an intelligent model … that understands real-world entities and their relationships to one another.” Results in the box are part summary and part collection of associations. This tool sources a database of 500 million things, people or places — eg. landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, and works of art that are regularly searched for on Google. The power of Knowledge Graph lies in its potential for both deeper and broader exploration of a topic. Walk through Google’s infograph to better understand the power of this tool then try a few searches. (eg. Search for [Paris] then click on the [Louvre] under Points of Interest).

Under More on the top black toolbar, you can search other huge Google repositories such as Books or Videos.

Once you do a search, you’ll see another range of Search tools in a toolbar at the top of the page. By clicking on Search Tools, you will find further options for modifying your search, such as reading level, sites with images or dictionaries. If you’re logged in to Google you can even limit your search to pages you’ve visited in the past.

Let’s look at a couple of searches using some of the further/advanced search tools:

Tip: Advanced Search options are also accessible by selecting the small cog on the extreme right of the bar then selecting Advanced Search.

Site Specific Search

You can fine-tune a search to look only at certain types of websites. Simply start your search with [site:] then enter the type of site you wish to search (eg .edu, .gov, .org). The search below restricts the query to government data relevant to Australia.

Site Specific search: .gov.au

 

Tip: Did you know that in Google Chrome you can type your search directly into the web address box? It’s dual purpose: Google calls it an omnibox.

Google Omnibox

Beyond Google

While Google is the search engine of choice for nearly 70% of people, there are others that offer options and services that Google doesn’t. Here are just a few to explore:

  • DuckDuckGo is becoming a popular alternative to Google, and its privacy policy states that it doesn’t track search history
  • Bing is Microsoft’s search engine, with options to search video, images, news, maps, and tools such as limiting by language or by country
  • InstaGrok is billed as an educational search engine and includes a visual search and note-taking feature.

The task

Choose a  relatively popular term that students might be searching for at your school (such as Ancient Egypt) and compare the results offered by Google and some of the other search engines.

How would you rate the effectiveness of these search engines? Reflect on the results and your observations in your blog post for this unit.

(We’ll summarise these questions for your blog post at the end – keep a record of your findings for the moment.)

Now go on to the next task – Evaluating search results.

Go back to unit overview.