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Project Refining Searches

Task 1 – How ‘smart’ do you think your internet searches are? Out of 10 give yourself a score. Now write down 10 ways that you do a search on the internet. Number them 1-10.

When you have finished, compare your list with this link: Rescore yourself by how comparing the search steps you listed, by comparison with the article. Use the rule: if you have the same point, give yourself one mark. Add up your score at the end.

Task 2 – Were you surprised at your score? If most internet users were honest, they would probably admit they usually type a question into the Google search box, click search and then choose one of the first three listed websites that appear.

Task 3 – What about before you even start searching? Do you sit and reflect a little on the kinds of specific keyword combinations that will give you the best possible results for what you are looking for?

Before doing task 4, write a journal entry entitled ‘My Search Behaviour’ using a journal app such as Be honest about what you learnt from the article above by comparing your search behaviours. File a copy in your project folder for this project.

Task 4 – Use the Search Recording Template to record your thinking as you do the following search activities on caterpillars below. Be aware of how each part of the task is helping you refine your searches:

Who Knew There Were So Many Caterpillars!

  • Do a Google search for the keyword ‘caterpillar’. Record in a copy of the  table what ‘types’ of caterpillar results you got, apart from the insect kind (Hint: heavy machinery, clothing, and employment.)
  • Use the ‘operator’ plus (+) with your keyword, such as caterpillar+insect to refine the search and filter out non-living things (such as companies and product brands). Record your thinking about how the use of the operator returns only websites relating to the insect caterpillar variety.
  • Do a search with the phrase the caterpillar, and then only caterpillar. What do you notice about using a keyword without common ‘stop words’ and punctuation such as ‘a’, ‘the’ ‘what’.
  • Change the operator to a minus (-) after the term (for example, ‘caterpillar – company’ will remove most of the results that refer to businesses, leaving mainly the caterpillar insect references.
  • Type in a specific keyword phrase in quotation marks so that your search only returns that exact phrase. For example, what search results does specific phrase “very hungry caterpillar” give you? What if you were to type in the search without the quotation marks – how would your search results differ?
  • Use an ‘or’ to return results with one keyword or another. For example caterpillar OR butterfly. How could this search operator be useful?

Now try out using Google search tools and setting menu options –

  • Use the ‘search tools’ menu to set the reading level of your search. The reading level of some websites may be too difficult or sophisticated for your age level. Setting the reading level to ‘basic’, ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ can help filter the difficulty.
  • Add the phrase ‘K-12’ to a keyword, to restrict the results to school age material. For example, caterpillar + K-12. Do your own search to find out what ‘K-12’ refers to and why it would help narrow your search to school level content or information.
  • Set your ‘time’ and then ‘country’ settings on the left of the Google screen. Why would you ever need to use these?
  • Google is not the only search engine of the internet. Try out some different search apps like: Yahoo, Bing, Aol or Do you notice any differences?

Task 5 – Go back to your journal entry completed in Task 3. Make a new entry entitled ‘How I Plan to Refine my Search Behaviour’. Write a brief description in your journal about ways you plan to change your searches in the future and any guidelines from the caterpillar activity that you think may be useful to you.

Task 6 – Think of a topic or project you are currently working on at school that you will need to perform some online searches for information. Draw up a table like the one you used for the caterpillar activity. Record interesting or relevant facts you have found from your more refined searching.

Task 7 – Design a ‘Refining Your Searches Guide’ for others to use. Feel free to adapt the content in the activity, but rephrase or paraphrase in your own words. Your guide can be in any form: video, presentation, Googe Doc, Prezzie.

Task 8 – Identify someone you can get to do the survey. Administer the survey pre-test and record their score. Show them your guide and then get them to do the survey again. Has their score changed? Discuss with the person how effective they thought your guide was and whether it could be improved.

Task 9 – Use the feedback you have been given to good use and update or change your guide to make it more effective.

Task 10 – Post your guide on your blog for others to benefit from. If you know of other classmates or family members that may be able to use it for their searches, email them a link to your work.