Searching through Google, Google Scholar and ProQuest


What I discovered (after hours of playing) that is the same about all 3 of these expert searching facilities, Google, Google Scholar and ProQuest, is that:

  • To find an explicit phrase I used quotation marks (“ “). It forces the database to search for the exact phrase, compared to the database finding each word individually, which in turn, narrows the search significantly.
  • I used parentheses ( ) to enclose the search terms for each concept. The databases search for these terms first before combining with terms outside the brackets. For example, to find (inquiry OR enquiry) it will look for these two terms together.
  • I did not have to use the Boolean operator AND in the main search box as these databases automatically do it for you. I discovered that Google Scholar did this as it started to recognise my searching habits.

Although unlike ProQuest, when searching Google and Google Scholar I found that:

  • I could exclude terms from a search by using a hyphen in front of the word (with no spaces). This narrowed the search and got rid of irrelevant terms. For example -science took away all articles with the term science in the title or abstract. I could use the hyphen in front of a word instead of using the Boolean operator term NOT.
  • Connecting keywords with the Boolean operator OR retrieved results using the search terms on either side of the OR which in turn broadened the search.

While all 3 expert search facilities have similar features, I liked Google the most because it offers even more for the individual who is looking for a specific targeted information:

After wandering about exactly how Google searches, I discovered the SEO theory and analysis blog, which explained that Google starts with basic website performance, then it looks for: anything that might be of value to someone, content objects, the content of the page, content relationships, patterns and relationships and it does stuff with hypertext links it finds. Pretty amazing! After personally experimenting with many basic Google searches, I  found results from websites, youtube clips, Wikipedia definitions, university websites, to lesson plans and many many more resources.

One of the expert searches I conducted on Google lead me to two great resources. One by the educational consultant Murdoch (2010) and the other, Bertolini that I have added to my annotated bibliography. The step by step search process consisted of: 1. “inquiry based learning” “upper primary”, where text books topped the list 2. So I then added OR “upper elementary”, that nearly doubled the results (much broader search) 3. When I took out all of the quotation marks, the results went into the 3 millions 4. So I tried adding a hyphen between inquiry and based and it didn’t change the results at all 5. I then added OR “middle school” which again broadened the results 6. I didn’t need science results therefore I added –science (which narrowed the search) 7. By adding history the search was narrowed even further, with the terms now showing up in the titles. I noticed the term secondary appear so I took it out 8. –secondary 9. I finally narrowed the search to SOSE and found six resources, four of which were great resources, Gardner (2011),  Edutopia (2012) and two blogs from this subject last year (Handley-Stuart and Brand).   What I also really like about Google is that you can see a screenshot of the front page of an article/website etc when you pass the cursor over the arrow (as I am a very visual learner). To sum up this wonderful Google search engine, I discovered that it also:

  • Has the facility to put a ~ in front of a word (no spaces) to find similar words (synonyms)
  • Searches terms in singular forms as it will look for both singular and plural
  • Uses intitle: if you require the search term be in the title of the webpage (see image)
  • Omits entries similar to the entries already displayed (in search results) (see image)
  • Suggests using different word orders to retrieve different results
  • Lets you leave all punctuation out
  • Has an ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button, for example inquiry based learning  (Disney Learning Partnership, 2004)

Some of the other websites and documents that I added to my annotated bibliography after searching Google where Scheffers (2008), Mead (2010) and Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (2010).  

Unlike Google and ProQuest, Google Scholar (which searches for Scholarly literature) has some excellent features (including a great help section) like:

  • Taking away patents and citations, narrowed my search
  • I could find articles with the term SOSE (even though it is not Australian)
  • I used related articles to find articles on similar topics
  • Using ” ” and ( ) together eg “(inquiry OR enquiry) based learning”
  • Using synonyms for words for example, primary OR “middle school” OR elementary as Google Scholar recognises terms from different countries
  • Using the cited by ? data which helped me know whether or not the article is worth looking at
  • Having the link to the get the fulltext @ QUT, wonderful tool!!

Like Google, one of the expert searches I conducted on Google Scholar lead to a couple of good resources to add to my annotated bibliography, including Gordon and Lucas et al (2004). The expert search consisted of: 1. inquiry based learning (with no quotation marks) which resulted in a very large search of over 1.5 million 2. I then put in quotation marks and took off patents and citations which narrowed the search dramatically to 12,500 results 3. By adding primary it halved the search again 4. middle primary, halved it again (I purposely didn’t put this in quotation marks). Without the quotation marks, these 2 words have different meanings in context, from primary resources to middle school. I tried putting them in quotation marks and no results were returned.  5. By taking out the –science terms I got rid of a lot of irrelevant articles as inquiry is a major part in science research 6. Same went for –mathematics 7. I then added history as my ILA is focused on the history side of SOSE  and returned 83 results of which I found another great resource in Tambyah (2010).

More expert searching strategies in A+ Education and ERIC to be continued …………..

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