Google – everyone’s first search solution

Table demonstrating order of search strings and their development.
Table demonstrating order of search strings and their development.

Research question: How can the library support inquiry learning?

Figure 1 Using the search terms
Figure 1 Using the search terms “Supporting inquiry learning librarian secondary school” in Google.

Building upon the general search of inquiry learning in Google, I added a few extra terms to narrow down the search. My first search of the terms Supporting inquiry learning librarian secondary school yielded a page of results, some of which do appear relevant (Fig. 1). The focus of these results looks primarily at the role of the Teacher-Librarian which identifies them as core teachers in building up the research capacity in students through modelling and facilitating guided inquiry lessons. The general nature of the my search results suggest that research activities are often most suited to occur in the library, and librarians managing the resources and understanding best how to navigate the databases that they administer ensures that they are most capable at delivering inquiry learning activities. The useful articles that I found include:

Narrowing the search further using the Boolean operator ‘AND’ in between the search terms yielded even more relevant results, even though I was under the impression Google searches generally ignored this word. The first six results are a combination of articles from the NSW Education Department, ASLA, Rutgers University New Jersey, SCIS, and the Curriculum and Leadership Journal Australia, all of which I would consider to be reputable sources on this topic. The most valuable include an article by Judi Moreillon (2014) in the Journal of the American Association of School Libraries, ‘Knowledge Quest’ on ‘Inquiry Learning and Reading Comprehension Strategy Instruction’ and Carol Kuhlthau’s article, ‘Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century’ in the School Libraries Worldwide journal (2010).

Figure 2 Using ‘Supporting AND “inquiry learning” AND teacher AND “secondary school”’ to try to narrow my search only managed to list a variety of irrelevant subject areas.

At this point, I was getting excited. Even though I wasn’t searching beyond the first page (because it’s Google, who does?), Google was returning a variety of resources, including websites, Government inquiries, research, and professional articles. I decided to investigate the role of the teacher in inquiry learning using, ‘Supporting AND “inquiry learning” AND teacher AND “secondary school”‘ as my search string (Fig. 2), hoping the same level of information would surface. Unfortunately, the first page only returned resources on lessons or projects for specific subject areas. This specific information, for instance “Inquiry approaches in secondary Studies of Society and Environment” or “Networked inquiry learning in secondary science classrooms” (Fig. 2) was not helpful in assisting me to understand what the general role of the teacher is in inquiry learning. The role of the teacher is not anywhere near as well documented as that of the teacher librarian.

Figure 3 Using ‘Supporting AND
Figure 3 Using ‘Supporting AND “inquiry learning” AND teacher AND English AND “secondary school” -science’ as my search string yielded a page of irrelevant results. Cannot go too narrow using Google.

Research question: How can inquiry learning be included in the English classroom?

My last attempt at Google was even more disappointing. I tried to narrow the same search down to the English classroom, NOT science (Supporting AND “inquiry learning” AND teacher AND English AND “secondary school” -science). The results for this were even more useless (Fig. 3). Random education-related websites surfaced which seemed to have the terms “inquiry learning” and “English” on the same page, rather than being about inquiry learning in the English classroom.


Figure 4 Used
Figure 4 Used “inquiry based learning in the english classroom” as my search string. Results were surprisingly useful.

Typing that last line in the previous paragraph gave me a brain-wave, and so I typed, “Inquiry based learning in the english classroom” into Google. My loyal website has redeemed itself, providing a variety of resources including articles, videos of inquiry based learning in action in the English classroom, and lesson ideas (Fig. 4). While the results were not strictly academic, they were written by teaching professionals, and coupled with the research from the effective Google searches from earlier, they will still prove to be useful in providing me with ideas on how to incorporate inquiry learning into a regular English classroom. A student teacher’s inquiry project An Exploration of Inquiry in the English Classroom, high-school teacher Heather Brown’s journal article, ‘Walking into the Unknown: Inquiry-Based Learning Transforms the English Classroom’ in The English Journal, and a sample chapter entitled, ‘Inquiry and Independence in the English Language Arts Classroom’ from the American publication, Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards: English Language Arts, Grades 6-8 (2011) have all appeared to be useful to answering my question about incorporating inquiry learning in the English classroom.


Google has proved quite useful in this search as I have a handful of highly relevant resources to use in answering two of my inquiry questions. I found that keeping it simple was the most effective way to return the most useful results in Google, as the relevancy of results returned was an indirect correlation with how complicated my Boolean operators became (Fig. 5).

Figure 5 A graph demonstrating the indirect correlation between the relevancy of results and the search strings.
Figure 5 A graph demonstrating the indirect correlation between the relevancy of results and the search strings.

Once I started including quotation marks, the results became quite messy. My most effective searches were through using a sentence, (Inquiry based learning in the english classroom), key terms (Supporting inquiry learning librarian secondary school), or, most effectively, by only using the Boolean operator ‘AND’ to narrow the search (Supporting AND inquiry learning AND librarian AND secondary school).


2 thoughts on “Google – everyone’s first search solution

  1. lizzydixon83 September 19, 2015 / 9:58 pm

    Your series of expert searching posts offers some interesting observations about the pros and cons of each of the different databases. In particular, your reflection and graph about the use of Boolean operators in Google was intriguing – perhaps a ‘quick and dirty’ search really is the best thing in this massive database! I am interested to test out this theory more.

    Visually, your blog is appealing. There is a spatting of screenshots which break up and illustrate the text, engaging the reader. Occasionally, I found that these screenshots where not placed close enough to the text they were related to, and I found myself having to scroll up or down the screen to compare the image with the text. This might be something to consider improving. Another formatting issue to consider would be using tables, text boxes or bold type to represent your search strings and how they are changing. This would give a visual representation of your evolving search, and to help the reader engage in the text. Without this visual, I found it difficult to assess how each search string had changed from the last.

    I was interested to note that on a whole, you found Google and Social Media the most useful search engines for your topic. ProQuest, A+ Education and Google Scholar did not offer you the types of resources you were after. This is likely because of the nature of your search question, which demanded resources which provided teacher insight and examples, rather than academic analysis. It would be interesting to see if you feel the same way next time you are researching on a different topic.


    • Diana September 20, 2015 / 10:35 pm

      Thanks so much for this feedback! Wonderfully helpful! I actually found A+ to be quite helpful compared to ProQuest and Scholar, so I will definitely need to go back and make that a bit clearer!


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