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Advanced Search Strategies for Students

A couple weeks ago, I shared a blog post about the skill of search and how to read a search results page. If you didn’t read it, I encourage you to jump over and take a look! It’ll help your students read a search page like an index of a book. Like an index, there’s so much valuable information in each search result!

Once your students have mastered the basic skill of search, you can work on advanced skills.

I think a big idea for students to know is that their search results may look completely different from their classmate’s one desk over. Search results vary from person to person based on search and browser history. This means that your search results are tailored to you and your preferences, which is great for helping us find what we like to see, but not so great for helping us find the results that challenge our normal way of thinking.

By taking a deeper dive into the advanced search tools on Google, your students can find more relevant information, and help challenge confirmation bias.

Start by searching for a term. Once we’ve gotten the search results back, we can see that there are a number of tabs at the top. These tabs will help you filter by type of result, such as images, news, and videos, but there’s a drop-down menu to the right that gives you even further options, including books. When students are looking for sources for their work, this tab can help them find books on the topic they’ve searched for.

The advanced search feature can be found by clicking “settings” and navigating to “advanced search”. Once you’ve navigated to this area, there are a variety of ways to narrow your search.

There are are many more ways to search for terms on this page, including “this exact word or phrase,” “any of these words,” and “none of these words.” Google provides examples in the margin of how to draft your search for each one.

Here are four ways students can use advanced search skills to enhance their information searches:

Site or Domain: This allows you to narrow down the search results based on a certain website, or domain type, meaning I can search for my term within www.edurolearning.com, or within all .edu or .gov addresses. This way of searching is helpful when students are looking for information within one website, or in academic papers and on government websites. This can also help students distinguish fake news stories and sources.

Find pages that are similar to: When you’ve found a great source, and you want to find other websites like it, you can search relatedto:example.com to get results that are similar.

Find websites that link to a URL: You can use linkto:example.com to find other websites that link to a specific website. This is helpful when verifying the legitimacy of a news source.  

File type: This search type lets you find pages in the format you prefer. Say your students are looking for a Powerpoint template for a book report. They can search by that .ppt file type, and the results will only show pages in that format.

I encourage you to continue to work with your students on the skill of search throughout the school year to enhance their critical literacy. When they’re able to search for what they want, rather than just for what the search engine provides, students can be more informed and efficient with their time.

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