Saturday, June 11, 2011

Google Search Part 2: Advanced Search!

Having covered Operators in the last blog post (see "Google Search Part 1: Operators"), I'll shift my attention to the Advanced Search as it has far greater implications for education. Many of you have probably had a quick look at Advanced Search, but have neglected using it out of fear or simply lack of time. I'd like to show you some options that will help your students become more proficient at searching for various topics. Please follow the example below in a new tab:

1. Let's say your student has chosen to write an essay on the tradition of Maple Syrup in Canada. When you type in "Maple Syrup" (without quotations) there are about 10 million results. While many of these will be relevant, you'll notice websites where people are trying to sell Maple Syrup creep near the top of the list.
2. Click on Advanced Search. You'll notice that maple syrup is already in the field that says "Find web pages that have all of these words." Here is where we can begin to narrow down results. Try adding in the words "Canada" and "history" since we are researching maple syrup in Canada. Now your results are down to 2.9 million. Still we'll find some results from companies selling their syrup.

3. Now we want to remove sites that contain irrelevant content using the field entitled, "but don't show pages that have any of these unwanted words." We can add words like "store," "buy," and "purchase." Now our results are at 1.9 million. You'll notice on the results page there is a minus in front of all of these new words (a shortcut). Let's keep going. Add more words into this field, like "images" and "video" or "United States" and "tourism." Now we're down to 1.5 million results.

4. Let's try some more features of Advanced Search. Change the Language to English. Under "Search within a Site or Domain" add in ".ca" so it searches only Canadian websites. Now we're down to 124 thousand results.

Now, there is a little bit of give and take with this process. Sometimes you'll find that words you've used to narrow down the search have gone too far and have eliminated websites that are relevant. Simply go backwards and take out (or change) a word you've added. This isn't a linear process. For instance, you may want to add in a certain province while removing another. If you are looking for current sites or news articles, try playing with the "date" option at the bottom of advanced search.

Another interesting feature is the "Filetype" field. Clear all of your fields and try searching for "Maple Syrup Canada History" after you change the filetype to Powerpoint and see what comes up. It may change the way you assign presentations in the future...

Next time: Google Search Part 3: Image Search!

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