Thursday, August 6, 2009

Know Your Options!

Just when you thought you knew all there was to know about Google Search...they introduce the options button. I bet you didn't even notice. I sure didn't!

Here's a quick tutorial video, and below I'll discuss some of the implications/uses for this in library and research.

There are three options here I especially love.

1) Related Searches/Wonder Wheel. Most of us know it's an uphill battle getting students to plan their searches, generate key words, etc. When they can't find information within the first few hits, they give up. Other search engines provide related terms lists. Below you'll see a comparison of the results in a)Yahoo and b) Google. (Full disclosure: I was a beta-tester for the Yahoo related search options)

The search terms they suggest are fairly similar (though Google adds in some odd ones), and I do think students would find the "related concepts" in Yahoo helpful. Google sold me, however, with one link Yahoo doesn't offer: French Revolution Documents.

As students make increasing use of primary source material--our History Dept. requires students to use at least 7 in their research papers--they will welcome any help in what can often be a grueling search task.

Google takes the related search idea one step further by offering the Wonder Wheel, a graphical presentation of search options (ala Visu-Words) that not only leads students into ever more specific search, but also nods to learning styles preferences.

The Timeline can be used in two different ways. With the "French Revolution" search, for example, the user can drill down into specific dates. Clicking on the 1800's section produced a page on the Battle of Marengo on June 14th, 1800.

It can also reveal trends. Run a search on "autism," and you'll see an explosion from 2000 on, along with an odd spike in the 1940's. Upon further exploration, it turns out autism was identified in 1943, hence the high number of pages in that time frame.

Finally, the "Reviews" section in All Results. Students frequently--at least at our school!-have to find reviews of current topical books. If the NYT Book Review doesn't have it, they're often at a loss for where to look. A search for Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded turned up the NYT Book Review, Slate and, among others.

What I especially like about all of these options is their ease of use. For some reason, I can't seem to get the students to use the Avanced Search Options, though I keep plugging away. I suspect it requires too much thought/planning for them. ("Do I need all of these words, or just one of them?")

Options makes it a little easier for them to broaden their search options. However much I might decry their lack of initiative in generating their own search terms, if these tools keep them searching and digging longer, with useful results, who am I to argue?

1 comment:

  1. Most of the time I can find what I need through a normal Google search, but yesterday I was searching for a pretty specific and complex topic and was having trouble, so I used the wonder wheel feature. It was very helpful as it showed related search terms. Great post!