After the launch of Wolfram Alpha, or perhaps because of it, Google has enhanced its search facilities.
I like always to use the Advance Search and try to explain to students about the benefits. I don’t get into all classes and they can forget so the new searching options are a further guide to making a search more useful from the basic search page. There are also some visual options that can be useful as well.
Once you have done a simple search, click on the show options at the top of the results page. The options will enable the user to filter the results by a time period or a media type. You can choose to look through reviews of the item you are looking for or forums that might be discussing the merits of the item.
If you choose to look at the videos available, click on that option and you get up all videos with further filter options. You can choose by length or by date of the video.
You can go back the the initial screen at any time by resetting options..
The timeline option creates a different view. The timeline search scans the results page for dates mentioned in the text, and shows a graph of the volume of pages that correspond with those dates in set intervals, such as 20 years or 50 years. If you move your mouse over the timeline, you can pull up all the stories that appear between the set date. Another option is to enter your own search dates to narrow the results even further. This is an interesting way for followiing particular topics or keywords.
The other visual search option is the Wonder Wheel. This option creates a visual representation of search results in a spider-like (mind mapping type) diagram format.
When you click on this option you bring up a tag cloud of hyperlinked search terms/phrases. The search term is in the centre. Coming off that central term are “spokes”, that offer other related search keywords that offer to help the user to further refine their search.
When you click on any of the related terms, the Wonder Wheel is redrawn on the screen. The new search term now sits as the centre of a new wheel, with other spokes of related search terms coming off it.
Underneath this “new” wheel, still clickable, but in smaller and fainter text to show it is now the secondary feature, is the first Wonder Wheel, with the original search term at the centre. Along the right-hand side of the screen are the usual list of web site pages that relate to that search term, and users can click on any of these to visit that page. I think that the Wonder wheel offers the most useful option to students. I have used other search engines that cluster or categorise searches: Mooter (used to offer a visual(tag cloud) format but is now a list) and iBoogie (which is a name that sticks in the minds of students although it is not the visual representation) , Clusty (by vivisimo), lyGo (offers a visual results page), Quintura (offers the tag cloud option as well as the traditional listing) and Kartoo (another visual search engine with results displayed in non-linear form).
I want all my students to understand how to breakdown a topic and focus on the important or relevant issues. This is a learning process and some catch on more quickly than others. If students have difficulty getting a “handle” on a research topic and can only think in broad terms, this is is one way to help them narrow it down into a more manageable and focused topic.
– And of course Google has a video that explains how to use the new option
Filed under: Education, Research, Web2.0 | Tagged: clustering, concept-based searches, Google, Search engines, tag clouds, visual search | Leave a comment »