Sunday, 17 August 2014

How Google-savvy are you? (ETL 501)

I thought I was net-savvy and competent at searching for information. As I work my way through my Masters in Teacher Librarianship, I am learning that my Internet capabilities are not quite what I thought them to be. It now appears, after having explored tutorials and you-tube videos, that I was not quite as search savvy as I thought, and that there is actually a whole lot more to search engines such as Google than I ever imagined.

Like many people, I automatically go to Google when wanting to search for something on the net. I know there are many different search engines available, but I have to admit, that I find Google reliable, comfortable and easy to use. Occasionally, I will search for results past the first page.  More often than not though, I will refine my search results simply through rephrasing my search terms. I have frequently employed just basic search tools to locate my information.

The Google tutorials located at Google search education ( contain a number of tutorials that can enhance your knowledge, skills and understanding in using the numerous search functions that Google has to offer. While I was familiar with the use of the advanced search option, I was quite ignorant of the search operators can be employed on the basic search page. Functions such as locating exact phrases, specific links, sites, filetypes and number ranges all contribute to making your search more refined and targeted. Instead of a results list in the millions, you can refine your search results down to hundreds, locating the websites and information that directly meet your search needs. Being familiar with these operators and actively employing them in your search, makes you a much more efficient and critically literate search engine user. A full list of Google search operators can be found here, a worthwhile link to keep handy, as well as this one that explains how punctuation and symbols are used in a Google search.

Google also provides a range of search filter tools on the basic search page as well as for criteria based search pages such as Google maps and Google images. These search tools enable you to specify key information such as date range, reading level and specific country. You can filter images through size, colour and usage rights; videos for duration, quality and source.

There are now a range of Google products available that can be used to enhance your online search experience from specialized search operators such as Google scholar for academic search, to home and office capabilities with operators such as Google Drive (create, share, keep all your stuff in one place). Taking the time to work through some of the Google search education tutorials can build your skills very quickly, helping to guide through the range of Functions and tools these Google products provide.

Taking the time also, to explore other search engines and their capabilities (there is a great list of alternative search engines here
can be useful to, especially in pinpointing a search engine that works best for  your colleagues / your students and their information search needs. 

One thing is for sure – there is a wealth of information out there waiting for us to find it. Understanding the tricks of the trade – the tools that are in place to help us be efficient navigators of the internet - is key knowledge that all net users, librarians or otherwise, should be employing with every search that we do.

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