in Education, techintegration, Technology, TechTips

Searching Effectively with Google Search


We don’t need to memorize facts as we can search and find them online. We need to know how to access information that we want or need, how to evaluate the information that we find, use it as desired, and communicate it in ways that are useful and/or appropriate. This post is about step 1: finding information.

Creating a Google Search Query

I teach students about identifying keywords, because I think it’s useful for searching in directories and databases. Search engines tend to be a bit smarter, and are good at answering factual questions. So while it’s still important for children to be able to identify the keyword related to their question, it’s just as useful for them to phrase questions in such a way that the search algorithm returns useful results.

When starting a Google search, it’s as good a beginning as any to simply type in your question. Based on the results, you can refine your search using search operators.

Making Sense of Results

search results screen

1. Search Query
2. Featured Snippet
3. Search results
4. Knowledge Graph

You may notice featured snippets on some of your results pages. A featured snipped is a potential answer to your question, along with source information. There has been problems with the accuracy of featured snippets so it’s important to be a critical researcher, and not just trust the result in the box. Notice the feedback link at the bottom of the answer box; users can let Google know about their experience with the featured snippets.

Another element of Google Search results is the Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph a sidebar at the right side of the page which presents “information about objects in the real world” (Google). The Knowledge Graph is great for jump starting research, for learning more about a topic, and for finding new wonders/curiosities that you may not have known to ask.

Examples of Searches

Here are some of the searches that you can do with answers in an answer box. I’ve put the ones that I use the most frequently first. Try out the queries that interest you:

  • picture of public domain whale or picture of whale CC0 (or other animal)
  • thank you in finnish (try other words in other languages) or type translate to get a translation widget
  • weather in prague (or other location)
  • time in Ottawa (can also phrase as a question)
  • timer, 2 minutes timer or stopwatch
  • calories in an egg (replace for other food)
  • 3 euros in czk or 1 ft in cm (replace the number and the units; can also phrase as a question)
  • calculator (or enter in a calculation)
  • define data visualization
  • population of prague (or other public data)
  • BA853 (or other flight number)
  • PRG to YOW (or other airport codes)
  • prague to vienna
  • sunrise prague or sunset prague (or other location or zip code)
  • sweet potato nutrition or sweet potato facts (or other food)
  • where was einstein born (or other quick facts)
  • easter (or other public holiday)
  • how to bake beets
  • flip a coin
  • roll a die
  • attractions prague (or other location)
  • goog (or other stock symbol)
  • asthma (or other medical condition, works better at rather than – try both)
  • fox origin (or other word)
  • my events or my reservations or my flights
  • show me my photos in march 2016 (if you use Google photos)
  • area of a circle (or other shape)
  • volume of a cube (or other solid)
  • y=x^2 (or other formula)
  • what does a cat say (works for 10 animals; no fox :()
  • metronome

And now for the fun queries:

  • askew
  • do a barrel roll
  • zerg rush
  • google in 1998
  • atari breakout (image search)

Note that I usually type my search query to be as short as possible.

search queries