The web offers students unimagined access to valuable information for research projects. But effective searches require that users learn how to use good search engines.
Here are some tips for students who are new to surfing the web:
Be as specific as possible in choosing words for a search. Decide on both the general topic (e.g., air pollution) and the particular issues that are of primary interest (e.g., causes of air pollution).
If the first search is unsatisfactory, try alternative words.
Try more than one search engine.
Fine-tune searches if the initial response provides “hits” on hundreds or thousands of sites.
Don’t get so focused on the search that you miss the deadline for completing the project.
Use non-web resources, too, such as encyclopedias and phone books. Because their information is more limited, finding basic information often can be accomplished quickly.
The following six web search engines have been specially engineered for students. These sites are especially helpful to middle-school students, who often are first becoming exposed to web-based research and may be overwhelmed by receiving irrelevant information:
- Ask Jeeves for Kids (http://www.ajkids.com). Developed by the creators of the Ask Jeeves search engine, this site provides links to web sites with information on virtually any topic. Full-sentence questions can be posed, which helps kids develop effective online search skills. The site also offers reference works, clip art, and homework help.
- Cybersleuth Kids (http://www.cybersleuth-kids.com). This site directs online searches by pre-organizing web links and information into categories and sub-categories. A visit to the section about U.S. presidents, for example, will provide links to sites about each president, election history, and government information.
- Homework Central from bigchalk (http://www.bigchalk.com). This resource provides links to sites that have been reviewed by educators and parents. Searches can be conducted by subject or keyword, and they can be tailored to fit a user’s grade level. There is also a good current-events section to help students research homework assignments.
- Searchopolis (http://www.searchopolis.com). Another site with links to web sites and basic reference information, Searchopolis is searchable by keyword and subject and is specialized for grades four through 12.
- Studyweb (http://www.studyweb.com). This site has organized references for more than 141,000 web sites. Students can conduct searches by choosing a pre-arranged category or by typing keywords. The site’s editors spotlight sites they consider to be superior in written or visual content.
- Yahooligans (http://www.yahooligans.com). As its name implies, this site was created by the developers of the Yahoo! search engine. Its greatest strength is that the pre-selection of links will help limit the number of “hits” a search query returns. Also, the query will return hits that anticipate a student’s interest in related sites (e.g., the term “Husky” will return sites about Siberian Huskies, dogs, and dog sledding).