Monday, December 14, 2009

Research Tools: Be the Spider

Cross posted at:

Be the spider, not the bee
When looking for food, the bee travels from flower to flower to flower. This is the traditional way that we think about researching. We go to a search engine and jump from web page to web page to web page. This is tiring and inefficient. Instead, we need to be like the spider.

The spider spins a web and waits for his food to come to him. He doesn't waste time. He has found a better way to make what he wants come to him. So, how can we do that as researchers?

BEE A Better Searcher: Google Smarter, Not Harder

Using Better Search Terms and Options
  • It's all about your search terms. Before ever putting a word into the Google search box, first spend some time coming up with 5 - 10 specific search terms. In fact, refer to these pages to help you refine your search terms.

  • Use quotation marks to limit results. Putting quotation marks around your search terms tells Google to return results that include only that exact phrase. This is especially important to use when you are looking for research on uniquely worded or specific terms. For example, there are over 16 million results for India's water supply but only 186,000 results for "India's water supply," and the results that are returned when using the quotations are more relevant.

  • Search within a specific website (site:) Google allows you to specify that your search results must come from a given website. For example, by typing India Google will return pages about India from the New York Times website. You can broaden this, too. If you type India, you will get results from a .gov domain.

  • Use the minus to limit what your search returns. When you put a minus before a word in the search box, Google will not return sites that include that term. For example, by doing a search like salsa -dancing (notice there is no space between the minus and dancing), the minus will remove "dancing" from the search results you get back.

  • Define: Need a quick definition? Type define: word and viola! An instant definition!

  • Use OR to refine your search. Google's default behavior is to consider all the words in a search. In fact, you don't need to use and because this is Google's default. If you want to specifically allow either one of several words, you can use the OR operator (note that you have to type 'OR' in ALL CAPS). For example, Philadelphia Phillies 2008 OR 2009 will give you results about either one of these years, whereas Philadelphia Phillies 2008 2009 (without the OR) will show pages that include both years on the same page.

  • Use the tilde to find synonymous search terms. Adding the tilde (~) before a search term will help broaden your search because the tilde tells Google to return not only the search term you specified, but also terms that Google thinks are synonymous with your term.

  • Use an asterisk to find a quick answer. Sometimes the best way to ask a question is to get Google to fill in the blank by adding an asterisk (*) at the part of the sentence or question that you want finished into the Google search box. How many MPH can the world's fastest man run? Ask Google by typing the world's fast man can run * MPH.


GOOGLE SEARCH OPTIONS: Search smarter using timeline searches, scholar searches, and book searches

  • Google Books: Search full texts of books (hint: use the search box to the left of the book's pages)

  • Google Scholar: Search scholarly online journals, presentations, and texts

  • Google News: Search worldwide news sources

Tips and Tricks for Searching Sources Faster
  • Control + F opens a find box at the bottom of the page to make searching within a document for specific information even easier. This works on any web page.

  • Search a specific site by using site:

  • Kite Runner will return pages on my site that mention Kite Runner

  • India water shortage will search educational sites for mention of India's water shortage issues

  • filetype:.pdf (or .doc or .ppt, etc.) will help you find specific file types (this can also be done from the advanced search

How Do I Know I Have Reliable Source?
1) Always check your work: validate the information by looking at multiple sources
2) Credibility =trustworthiness + expertise Strategies to determine trustworthiness and expertise:
  • Check the "About" section - look at who is publishing the site, the author's credentials, sponsoring organization, citations to other works. Use this to assess the bias.

  • The URL - is the web site from an organization you've hear of?

  • Type of page - is it someone's personal page?

  • Type of domain - .edu sites are generally more believable than some others

  • Where - is the site hosted in another country?

  • Is there a date and an author?

  • Do others cite this source? Use link: to see what links to a website
Information from this presentation

Make the WEB Work Harder:
Google Alerts
  • Create Alerts to send relevant news resources to your email inbox. BE THE SPIDER!

Access Your WEB of Research Anywhere:
Online Bookmarking

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