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Teaching the Ten Steps to Better Web Research By Mark E. Moran & Shannon A. Firth Dulcinea Media

• Do I have to cop y ALL of this down?

Links to all studies & articles discussed may be found on the last 3 pages of this presentation and in a blog post at This presentation is also available as a YouTube video that will play after the last slide, and is available at

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“It is very likely that our students’ brains have physically changed– and are different from ours – as a result of how they grew up.” 1 -- Marc Prensky

Our generation

Their generation

So are “digital natives� experts at searching the Web?

• After a year long information literacy program, most fifth grade students continued to rely entirely on Google and “never questioned the reliability of the websites they accessed.” 2 -- Vrije University Netherlands

• Even when high school students found a good source they did not recognize it and instead launched a new search. A high level of browsing is carried on at the expense of thinking and planning. 3 -- Shu Hsien L. Chen

• “Electronic media can “overwhelm youth with information that they may not have the skills or experience to evaluate.” And literacy skills overlap with safety skills. 4 • -- Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, March 2010

• Students without Web research training show up at college “beyond hope”….”they have learned to ‘get by’ with Google.” 5 -- University College London

• Not one of the 600 college students surveyed "could give an adequate conceptual definition of how Google returns results.� 6 --ERIAL study (Illinois)

Dulcinea Media’s 2010 Survey • Asked students 27 multiple-choice and openended questions.

Surveyed Surveyed 300 300 middle middle school school and and high high school school students students in in New New York. York.

How do you begin your search? • Almost half of middle school students chose “I type a question.”

If a search doesn’t give you good results...

... what do you do next? • I try another search engine. • I try different keywords but if I still can't find an answer, I just think real hard for an answer. • I focus on the encyclopedia.

I punch the screen. Just kidding, LOL.

How do you decide if an online article is a good source to use for a school report?

It’s a good source…. • if it has the information I need then it’s good for me. • if it sounds good, I know it’s right, and it has good vocab.

Actual Answwer: “I don’t know. I just go with it.”

How often do you check the author of an article?

• About 2/3 of students “rarely or never” check the author.

“It doesn’t really matter who wrote it.”..”

How often do you check to see when an article was written or last updated?

• 1/2 of high school students and about 3/4 of middle school students say they “rarely or never” check the date of an article.

I can’t find it.

In Conclusion…. A majority of students:  don’t know how to form a sound search query;  don’t have a strategy for dealing with poor results;  can’t articulate how they know content is credible;  don’t check the author or date of an article.

In other words...


Improving Internet skills starts with educators

“Students see educators modeling an effective research process and learn from it.� - Colette Cassinelli

“Librarians must be able to retool and stay ahead of teachers and students. - Joyce Valenza

Recognizing reliable sources + consider infinite options + Understanding intellectual property rights + Engaging modern audiences with conclusions = EFFECTIVE USE OF THE WEB

Models & Resources for Web Research

• Review the Big6 model.7 • Share the Ergo search model with students. 8 • Teach Ten Steps for Better Web Research.

No Quick Fix

• Effective web research skills cannot be learned in a week, a semester, or a year. • They must be taught year-round, throughout primary school years, and can be mastered only as students mature and gain experience.

A New Approach?

• Authors of ERIAL study: teach broad concepts and strategies, not use of specific tools. • Students want to see a “payoff.” Show them that a sound search strategy will generate better research results, saving them time when writing and resulting in better grades.

How Do Effective Researchers Behave?

• They start general with several keywords, then try new combinations in a systemic manner, and gradually begin to use more precise, even natural language. 9 • They look beyond the first few results and even the first page, and have favorite sites that they know they can trust.

Step 1: Where to Search • Joyce Valenza: students must know “the full toolkit” of resources available to them – it’s not just Google. 10 • The Internet may not be the best place to start; many databases, while not being as simple to use as a search engine, may help you find what you’re seeking far faster.

Step 1: Where to Search •Don’t count on search engines to do all the work for you. Ask a librarian or teacher to recommend individual sites. •Look for your “favorite sites.” • Use student-friendly tools for aggregating your favorite sites. e.g. Symbaloo or Diigo.

Step 1: Where to Search • Give students a list of 10 sites; include two poor sources. Students must defend their sources and point out poor ones. - Michelle Baldwin

Step 2: Try Several Search Engines • Suggest a two-week “Google Holiday” to

lessen dependency.

• Introduce meta-search engines (eg. Zuula). • Learn about other search engines you‘re not yet familiar with More:

Step 2: Try Several Search Engines….. • SweetSearch searches 35,000 websites that research experts have evaluated and approved. • SweetSearch4Me features sites for emerging learners. •We created these, yet don’t use them exclusively.

Step 3: Dig deep • Many websites rank high for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of content. • Professionals and academics don’t practice Search Engine Optimization. •The best results are often found many pages deep.

Step 3: Dig deep…. • Google and other search engines optimize their results for adults, who want to know “what happened today.” Google recently promised to deliver “50% fresher” results. • For school research, “fresher” is not usually better.

Step 3: Dig deep….

• Yolink enables users to browse search results in context without opening them. • Integrated into SweetSearch, Yolink can be used on other sites through a browser add-on.

Step 4: Think Before You Search If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.

Step 4: Think Before You Search • Define your task. • Have students rewrite assignments in their own words. - Angela Maiers

Step 5: Make Search Engines Work for You • Connectors AND and OR can be moderately effective. •Quotation marks are a critical tool students should know when to use. • But advanced search options are the best way to mandate or exclude certain words.

Step 5: Make Search Engines Work for You • As you search, add new keywords. • Avoid “looping” by documenting your search with a bookmarking tool, or keep a written record.

Step 6: Don’t Believe Everything You Read • Web search is detective work. •A good detective is always skeptical. •No single element determines a website’s credibility. • A good detective ALWAYS verifies critical information with several sources.

Step 7: Find Primary Sources • Primary sources are newspaper and magazine accounts, letters, diaries, films, photographs, etc. written or recorded at the time of the event. • Think of them as “eyewitness accounts” – which are generally considered more reliable than information that has been passed along. More:

Step 7: Looking at the Original Source?

• If you suspect a site may not be the original source of information, cut and paste a key phrase or sentence into a search engine. • If the phrase appears on another site that is likely the original source, evaluate the credibility of that site. More:

Step 8: Who Published the Article? • Do editors or experts review the information? Is it thorough? •Do the author and publisher have a wellestablished reputation? Search their names in a search engine.

Step 8: Who Published the Article? If the site does not provide the name of the publisher and its editors you on it.

cannot rely

Even if it “looks good or sounds good.�

Step 8: Who Published the Article?

• See 10 Reasons Why Students Can’t Cite Wikipedia. More:

Step 8: Who Published the Article? Assessing the top level domain (.com. .gov, .org, .edu) is not as useful as commonly believed. •

• Be wary of sites containing "free/discount/best/your/Web.” • Be critical of sites where advertisements blend with content.

Step 9: Why Was the Article Written? • Always ask, “why did the writer write this?” • Is the site trying to sell you something? • Does the site have any social or political biases? Eg. is not a neutral source for information on U.S. Presidents.

Step 9: Why Was the Article Written?

• Many websites that appear to offer valid

information but were created for another purpose. •More:

Step 10: When was information written or last revised? • Determine when an article was published or last updated. • If you can’t, then confirm the currency of the information elsewhere. • Use a news search engine, add the current year as a search term, or Advanced Search Options to restrict dates (imperfect). More:

The End? Yes, but it’s only the beginning of our efforts to help educators teach students how to use the Web effectively. We will offer versions of the Ten Steps for emerging learners, and lesson plans and videos. Sign-up for our newsletter to be kept updated on our progress.

Works Cited: 1. Prensky, Marc. “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” : On the Horizon. NCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001 2. Els Kuiper, Monique Volman and Jan Terwel. “Students' use of Web literacy skills and strategies: searching, reading and evaluating Web information.” Information Research: Vol. 13, No.3, (September, 2008. 3. Shu-Hsien L. Chen. “Searching the Online Catalog and the World Wide Web.” Journal of Educational Media & Library Sciences, 41 1 (September 2003) 29-43 4. On “Empowering Parents and Protecting Children in an Evolving Media landscape” Berkman Center for Internet & Society. February 24, 2010. 5. UCL. “Information behavior of the researcher of the future”: 11 January 2008. 6. Steve Kolowich, Searching for Better Research Habits, Inside Higher Ed, September 29, 2010


Works Cited: 7. Eisenberg, Mike. “What is the Big 6.” The Big 6: Information & Technology Skills for Student Achievement, (1997) 8. “Research Skills.” State Library of Victoria. Ergo. (2010) 9. Media Post: Google Research Focuses on Search Failures, September 21, 2010 10. Kasman Valenza, Joyce. “PowerSearching 501”: Springfield Township High School Library

Dulcinea Media Links: Dulcinea Media:


SweetSearch 10 Steps:




Search Engines

Primary Sources:

Original Source?

Can’t Cite Wikipedia:





Dulcinea Media By Mark E. Moran & Shannon A. Firth to copy ALL of this down? • Do I have This presentation is also available as a YouTub...