Our ETL501 subject guide suggests:
As the school’s information professional, the TL is often seen as the school’s ‘Internet expert’. (Herring, 2008, p. 14)
and asks us to increase our knowledge of search engines so I thought I’d blog my way through some of them to get to know them better. I am probably as guilty as the next person of being highly dependent on Google to conduct searches because it is familiar and ‘comfortable’.
Our course wants us to evaluate the effectiveness of the search engines and recommends:
An effective search strategy is one that is based on the purpose and the need of the searcher. (Herring, 2004, p.31) (italics are mine)
but I’ll get to serious evaluation later. First I think I need to get to know the features of each search engine and the ‘feel’ of them before I can make judgements.
I’m starting with the single search engines then I’ll move to the meta search engines. First off the mark is Yahoo!7 – the Australian version of Yahoo!
When I first opened it, I felt like I was looking at a cross between a shopping centre and a celeb gossip magazine. That’s why I’d always avoided it in the past and never recommended it to students. But I entered my trial keywords (global warming) and hit enter.
At the top of the results page I’m offered the option of searching: 1/ the Web; 2/Australia; 3/ New Zealand so that’s a plus – students can narrow down the results to obtain relevant information for our area. The result page also offered lots of search suggestions under:
- global warming australia
- causes of global warming
- effects of global warming
- global warming articles
- al gore global warming
When I hit ‘more’ it also offered concept categories to explore, all relevant to global warming. Eg.
- Climate Change
- greenhouse gases
- the greenhouse effect
- carbon dioxide
- fossil fuels
Very handy for students as well.
The original search brought up 229,000,000 hits and after this figure at the top of the page I noticed their ‘about this page’ hyperlink so I clicked it. More useful info!
On the ‘About” page I found out there is an ad-free, dedicated Yahoo! search start page. Nothing on it but the search box and logo. I also learned that Yahoo! has lots more web search options than I’d realised (click on “More>>” just above the search box). Many are the same as Google (news, images, maps), others of interest were:
- directory – which is a subject-based and human-edited website guide (Google also has this feature, you just never hear of it). Using this feature and my keywords, my search resulted in 2,178 sites, all of much higher quality (authority-wise). The results also indicate categories (eg. Category: Global Warming > Opposing Views, Category: Columns and Columnists)
- local – a guide to local businesses (didn’t bring up any results for ‘global warming’ but could be of use for other searches)
- Answers – where you can ask real people, real questions (who these people are who answer, of course, is an issue but they may offer new directions for a student). Answers submitted can be rated according to usefulness by users.
Lastly, I discovered Yahoo! has a service they call ShortCuts (both Service Shortcuts and Open Shortcuts). If there is a relevant Service shortcut to your search, a small note will appear up at the top of your results page (eg. calculator, time zone, weather, etc). Open shortcuts will search favourite sites or start an Internet application. There are already many default shortcuts (eg. !movies, !mysp = myspace.com, !wiki = wikipedia) or you can create and set your own by following the instructions at the hyperlink involved.
I’m really glad I took the time to explore this search engine. I’m now going to include the Yahoo! directory search into my repertoire of assistance and onto the school’s Project Hotspots page.