Global Schoolhouse Home Home Base: Harnessing the Power of the WebIntro to NetPBL: Collaborative Project-Based LearningBuilding Collaborative Student Web ProjectsGuide to Conducting Research on the InternetLibrary of References, Readings and ResourcesTable of Contents
Introduction to Searching the Internet
Information Resources
Human Resources
Digital Resources
Finding Digital Resources
Evaluating Internet Resources
Organizing Your Research
Topic-Oriented Research Directories
Search Engines
Primary Document Resources
1. Topic-Oriented Directories
2. Search Engines
3. Net-Smarts -- or becoming Netwise
4. S.E.A.R.C.H.

4. S.E.A.R.C.H.
A Model for the Internet Search Process

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It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

Sherlock Holmes
A Case of Identity

Side Bar

As mentioned several times already, searching the Internet is a process. There are no magic buttons on the Internet that instantly present you with the answers to your questions. You are a detective, investigating, finding clues, and altering your strategies as you learn more about the scene and what it can yield.

Like Boolean Logic, teaching about the process of searching the internet is difficult. Search processes tend to be very personal, depending on the types of information that people typically look for and their information management styles. For this reason, the S.E.A.R.C.H. process has been developed to provide a beginning model for searching the Internet.

Here is a brief description of the S.E.A.R.C.H. process. You can click on the letter or scroll down to read a more detailed explanation of each step in the process.

S Start with a small database search tool, such as Yahoo ( Live Internet Connection Required).
E Edit your search expression
A Advance to a large index search engine such as HotBot ( Live Internet Connection Required), Excite ( Live Internet Connection Required), or AltaVista ( Live Internet Connection Required).
R Refine your search phrase.
C Cycle back and Advance again
H Harvest your information gems.
Start with small database search tool Start with a single keyword on a small database search tool, such as Yahoo ( Live Internet Connection Required). There are two very important reasons to start with a search tool like Yahoo.
  1. It will give you a limited number of hits.
  2. Although the Yahoo database is very small compared with those of the major search engines, it will effectively deliver a list of Internet resources that are representative of what is available in larger quantity through the other search engines.

These are both important features because at this point, you are simply educating yourself about the types of resources that are available. You are interested in the relevant hits that you get, but just as interested in the irrelevant resources. You are gathering keywords, words to attract useful sites, and keywords to filter out resources that would NOT help you solve your problems, answer your question, or make your decision.

As an example, let's say that you are looking for information on earthquakes for a unit that you are preparing for your students. You would start with Yahoo by typing earthquake as the keyword.

Among the first 20 or so web pages that Yahoo finds, you find quite a few that would be useful. You find that many of these have the word seismology in them, so you decide to add this word to you list of keywords.

You also find several web pages about earthquake prediction. Although you, as a science teacher, find the information on these pages interesting, you know that it is too technical for most of your students. So you add prediction to your list of words.

Other pages have information about earthquake proof buildings. This is another type of page that would not be of use to your net unit. So you also take down the word, engineer.

Tip: It is a good idea to use a text processor for jotting down the keywords that you find during the initial and more advanced searches. This text process is also useful in editing and refining your search phrases.


Edit your search phrase Edit your search phrase based on what you learn from your initial search of Yahoo or other small database search tool. Be sure to visit the help or tips page of the search engine you plan to use so that you are familiar with the boolean conventions that it accepts. Use the text processor to rearrange your keywords and to insert operators. Here is one possible search phrase that you might settle on:

(earthquake OR volcano) NOT (prediction OR engineer)


Advance to a large database search tool Advance to a large index search engine and conduct a search with your edited search phrase. This sweep will likely produce a large number of hits. Here you will find more pages that are relevant to your goals and many more that are not relevant. Continue to add to your list of keywords that are common among the good pages and also words that are common among the web pages that do not help you.

One feature of the search process is the fact that you will find types of resources that you had not anticipated in the beginning. For instance, in our advanced searches for earthquake pages, we find a page with a QuickTime VR (virtual reality) image of the inside of a volcano. By manipulating the mouse, we find that we can see a 360 panorama of the landscape. As a result of this discovery, we might conduct a separate search whose search phrase would read:

Earthquake AND
("QuickTime VR" OR qtvr)


Refine your search phrase Refine your search phrase based on the new keywords. Use the text processor to add, rearrange, and delete keywords and to insert operators and punctuation. Then copy your new search phrase and paste it into your search engine of choice.
Cycle back and Advance again Cycle back to Advance again. You will continue to cycle around and re-search until you have accomplished your goal.
Harvest your information Harvest your information gems. At the same time that you move the information that you seek into your computer for processing, also collect all of the information that you will need to appropriately give credit to the author.

Section: Finding Digital Resources
Page 1: Topic-Oriented Directories
Page 2: Search Engines
Page 3: Net-Smarts -- or becoming Netwise
Page 4: S.E.A.R.C.H.
Next Section: Evaluating Internet Resources

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