Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Maximizing Google Search Part 5 - Checking Facts & Finding Reliable Sources

This is Part 5 of a 5-part blog series on the Google Powersearching course, a free online course that is self-paced. (feel free to skip to the first topic in this post)

This lesson deals with credibility of sources and fact finding, important skills for any online research.

*The point of the series is to give short summaries of the course with useful links and links to the videos Google provides. If you want to jump ahead and get go directly to many of the Search features you can access this work-in-progress Google Slides deck, entitled “Google Search: Foster Independent Learners & Search Like a Ninja”. It is based on Google Search workshops I have facilitated and continues to evolve. The goal is to learn how to use Google Search with maximum efficiency. As Google states, you will “Hone your searching skills by solving complex search challenges alongside peers from around the world in this online class.” The skills you will learn here will give educators the tools needed to foster your students’ independent research skills.

Credibility (video)
Google results are ranked, which means they top results are not based on authority of content nor credibility of information. Pages come up to the top for several reasons, one being the words you use in a query. (different terms have different implications) Fast-checking sites is helpful. Sub-directories, such as “capitalism/benefits” for example, will likely deal with capitalism from a positive perspective.

Variant Data (video) 
Different versions of information can exist. You need to be aware to question if the facts you are seeking vary. The circumference of the earth is the example given by Google. The circumference varies depending on whether it’s a polar or equatorial measurement.

  • Be careful to not put numbers in a search unless you are seeking that number.
  • Be careful of source data, such as a percentage given on a blogger’s page; you’ll want to check these sources for validity.
  • Use very specific terms when seeing information.

Using Books to Verify a Quote (video)
Google Books, in the more tab, is a helpful way to determine if quotes are actually in a source or not. In this function you can narrow your search by switching words; you can also use Command + F to search the document. Keep in mind the books may be a preview, rather than full view, and may not have all of the pages, affecting your search. 

Using WHOIS and Looking for Other Site Information (video)
WHOIS is a large database of information about websites. You can find information on site affiliates, owners, administrators, etc. This is for a sophisticated search, but you can find information that may lead to a greater understanding of the purpose of a site and its links. Why is this important? By knowing who or what organization has created a website you will have a better idea of what potential motivations for creating that website may be, or the perspective that the creators may take. For example, a racist organization may mask their true beliefs by naming their website in a way that keeps it from being overtly racist. You can find out who owns websites with WHOIS.

Common Misconceptions (video)
Google makes an effort in this segment to explain further how the company, Google operates. (at the time these videos were produced Google was not a subsidiary of Alphabet) Some key misconceptions are:

  • You can’t buy higher site rankings.
  • Where you see the Google logo on non-Google sites it does not indicate Google supports the site, but rather the site is using a Google product or there is advertising on Google. 
  • Google doesn’t endorse any products as superior to another.
  • Ranking does not mean authority or credibility.
  • Google wants to keep user needs first, and chooses to display ads in an unobtrusive way. 
*Learn more about Google as a company in The Google Story. Written in 2005, it is an interesting look back to the development of Search, the company ethos, and how it launched its IPO. Another (I have yet to read) is newer, called How Google Works

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