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Searching and Saving

posted Nov 14, 2011, 8:23 AM by   [ updated Nov 28, 2011, 8:21 AM ]
Let's get ready to research!  This lessons comes in several parts:

Introducing a new tool for saving information we find online

Research, the old way, with hand-written note cards (citation on the front, notes on the back):

We're going to use this same process, but with a 21st Century tool.
You've been set up with an account at  Diigo is a site that provides tools for web-based social bookmarking. Click below to get started.

Once you get signed in, you'll be prompted to install the Diigo Chrome Extension.  Follow the instructions onscreen.  When you're all set up, we'll show you how to use Diigo.

Strategies for searching

Now let's Tips for better searches (from Google)

  • Keep it simple. If you're looking for a particular company, just enter its name, or as much of its name as you can recall. If you're looking for a particular concept, place, or product, start with its name. If you're looking for a pizza restaurant, just enter pizza and the name of your town or your zip code. Simple is good.

  • Think how the page you are looking for will be written. A search engine is not a human, it is a program that matches the words you give to pages on the web. Use the words that are most likely to appear on the page. For example, instead of saying [ my head hurts ], say [ headache ], because that's the term a medical page will use. The query[ in what country are bats considered an omen of good luck? ] is very clear to a person, but the document that gives the answer may not have those words. Instead, use the query[ bats are considered good luck in ] or even just[ bats good luck ], because that is probably what the right page will say.

  • Describe what you need with as few terms as possible. The goal of each word in a query is to focus it further. Since all words are used, each additional word limits the results. If you limit too much, you will miss a lot of useful information. The main advantage to starting with fewer keywords is that, if you don't get what you need, the results will likely give you a good indication of what additional words are needed to refine your results on the next search. For example,[ weather cancun ] is a simple way to find the weather and it is likely to give better results than the longer [ weather report for cancun mexico ].

  • Choose descriptive words. The more unique the word is the more likely you are to get relevant results. Words that are not very descriptive, like 'document,' 'website,' 'company,' or 'info,' are usually not needed. Keep in mind, however, that even if the word has the correct meaning but it is not the one most people use, it may not match the pages you need. For example, [ celebrity ringtones ]is more descriptive and specific than [ celebrity sounds ].

Strategies for evaluating information

Evaluating Web Pages: Questions to Ask & Strategies for Getting the Answers

An eight-point evaluation checklist from the UC Berkeley Library.

  • What can the URL tell you?
  • Who wrote the page? Is he, she, or the authoring institution a qualified authority?
  • Is it dated? Current, timely?
  • Is information cited authentic?
  • Does the page have overall integrity and reliability as a source?
  • What's the bias?
  • Could the page or site be ironic, like a satire or a spoof?
  • If you have questions or reservations, how can you satisfy them?

Activity 1: Bookmark Incontrovertible Sources for...

1. What U.S. President was born in a town named Caldwell?
2. What are the two species of elephants?
3. Who played in the 1979 World Series?
4. From what place did the Ebola virus get its name?
5. What is the address of the Empire State Building?
6. What is North Carolina's state bird?
7. When did Dr. Seuss win the Pulitzer Prize?
8. Who invented the paper clip?
9. What was "Lady Bird" Johnson's maiden name?
10. What country had the largest recorded earthquake?

Activity 2: Browser Gymnastics

Let's do some exercises to make us better navigators online!

Hints, in no particular order:
  • "Open in New Tab"
  • "Select All"  ⌘ A
  • "Copy Image URL"

Practice Multitasking:

Open this form in a new window and type out the passage below exactly as written.  Use 1 space between each sentence.  No cutting and pasting!

Understanding how searches work

Tonight, you'll listen to a segment from Radiolab, which is a radio show that explores ideas in science. The segment below is from an episode called "Emergence." It highlights a number of interesting studies in the idea of group intelligence. First, let's test your own group intelligence by filling out the form below:



Listen to this piece from RadioLab.  Just a warning, this segment acknowledges that there is content on the Internet that is inappropriate for children.

We'll be discussing this segment in class.  If you liked it, you can listen to the full hour long show here: