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Research Beyond Google

Resources for teaching and learning, available locally and through the open Web.

About this Guide

This guide is meant as a starting point to help teachers find the information they need to inform their instructional practice and find useful supportive materials for lesson planning.

There are a lot of interesting and helpful websites that are available free and on the open Web, accessible through a search engine like Google. And as teachers, you also have access to high quality information through databases provided by various State organizations (which may require a log in).

The guide is divided into two sections:

Resources for the Classroom provide a place to start for finding supporting materials for instruction, including information for planning and curricular materials.

Research in Education contains resources that provide help and research to inform your practice. These include databases that contain research in education, created by practitioners and scholars, as well as more popular sites that provide support for teachers.

This is a work in progress, and it has to work for you. New resources will be added and changed over time. If you find a site or resource you think should be here, please feel free to contact Kathleen Billings (kathleen.billings@ppsd.org) or Carina Cournoyer (carina@brown.edu). Your feedback is most welcome!

Evaluating information

There's a lot of information out there. How do you decide whether it's good information? Use the following criteria and see if your information passes muster. 

Currency - Does the source provide the most up-to-date information on the topic?

Relevancy - Is the information fully relevant to your topic? Does it cover all aspects, or is it just tangentially related?

Authority - Is the author qualified to be writing about the topic? Does he/she have degrees or other expertise related to the topic? If there isn't an author, how do you know that the information is reliable?

Purpose - Is the purpose of the resource or website to inform? to entertain? to convince the reader of something, or sell something? This is often the most difficult (and perhaps most important) element in evaluating any source. Bias can be sneaky. Look at all of the above criteria, as well as examine the links and ads on the site. Look very carefully at the language used to determine purpose and bias.

Search Engines - How do they work?

Each search engine has its own way of searching. Understanding a bit about how a search engine decides what to show you can help you use it more effectively. For instance, Google uses hundreds of factors when considering which pages to show you, but some of the more important factors include

  1. If the webpage has been linked to from other webpages
  2. If the correct search terms have been entered in the same order or are near each other on the page
  3. How many pages there are in the website.

If many other people have linked to your website, and you’ve entered correct search terms in both the text and the code of your website, and you have many pages, your website will be ranked higher in Google searches. There are people who make a nice living off of tweaking websites so that they are ranked highly by Google. It’s called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and most commercial companies employ whole departments that make sure their websites come up first when you search.

Most colleges, universities, non-profit organizations, and average people cannot afford to spend a lot of time tweaking their websites like this! So when you want to find non-commercial, local, or very recent information, you have to know specialized techniques.

Yahoo tends to categorize webpages based on key terms and then look at rank based on ‘popularity’. Similarly, the library Discovery tool uses a categorization based on key terms and only searches materials that the library owns or subscribes to.

Now, if you don’t want to be an SEO specialist and you don’t want to stay abreast of all the changes that each search engine makes, how do you find what you want? Use more than one.

Google isn't the only game in town. Did you know that there are over fifteen general purpose search engines and many more specific ones? Check them out!