The focus of the second unit of the Google Power Searching online course is “Interpreting Results”.
The first lesson demonstrated information panels that show up on the right of the search page when searching for information on terms such as “animals, famous people, landmarks, countries, movies, books, works of art, sports teams, and chemical elements”. Trial and error and the discussion forum showed that this is only available via Google US, i.e. www.google.com, and will not work with other countries’ Google pages, e.g. www.google.com.hk.
These information panels are pretty interesting – actually what they really remind me of is the summaries at the beginning of lengthy encyclopaedia articles.
Each of the black subheadings is a clickable link, leading to a page of results on that more refined search term. (click picture to see details)
The second lesson discussed using [define] in the search box to locate definitions for unfamiliar words. Also there is an additional ‘Dictionary’ search tool available under the “Show Search Tools” link at the bottom of the left-hand menu.
The third lesson discussed refining searches by media types – not just images and videos, but also news. The presenter also demonstrated the range of options available under the “More” tab at the very top of the Google results page – such as Google Scholar, Google Books, Google Finance.
The fourth lesson examined the anatomy of a search result – Page name linked in blue, url in green, site abstract (or snippet) in black. Briefly noted in that lesson was how to look at the domain name of a url to recognise type of site e.g. “.gov”. Attention was also drawn to the use of ellipses … to indicate truncated or in some way cropped text.
The last lesson looked at filtering results by content such as news, blogs, recipes, discussions; if you click the “More” link there in the search menu there are a range of different filters you can apply. Very helpful for researching current events, or when looking only for public opinion on something – or you just want a way to use up two eggplants.
This is proving to be an interesting way to use an hour of my day – I could spend a lot of time just playing with the various search tools, getting to know them better. I really would like to share this with my colleagues, and use some of these activities with my students, particularly in the context of refining a search.
One thing I note about this course, though, is the way that the presenter speaks as if Google is a really amazing search expert, sitting on the other side of the computer helping you – it’s a little bit toothpaste-commercial, but that doesn’t change the fact that we all need to have really good search skills, if only to avoid wasting hours of our precious time.