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Assessing Google as a Teaching & Research Tool. Dennis G. Jerz Seton Hill University Teaching & Learning Forum 31 Jan 2005 Quick Links. Basic use of Google Keywords Quotations Marks Advanced Search Tips Obscure but Nifty Extended Features

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Assessing Google as a Teaching & Research Tool

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Assessing google as a teaching research tool

Assessing Google as a Teaching & Research Tool

Dennis G. JerzSeton Hill UniversityTeaching & Learning Forum31 Jan 2005

Quick links

Quick Links

  • Basic use of Google

    • Keywords

    • Quotations Marks

  • Advanced Search Tips

  • Obscure but Nifty

  • Extended Features

  • Much More on Google

Google more underused than understood

Google: more underused than understood.

  • At an information literacy conference, I asked a group of librarians how they thought Google worked.

  • …counting links?

  • …counting clicks on links?



  • Background and Basics

  • Advanced Search Tips

  • Special Extended Features

Background and basics

Background and Basics

  • Using Google: Keywords and Quotation Marks

  • How Google Works: Brute Strength, Caches, and PageRank

Using google

Using Google

  • Google’s home page is uncluttered and ad-free (compare to Yahoo! or MSN).

  • Keywords: by default, uses Boolean “AND”

    seton hill = seton AND hill

    this + way up = forces inclusion of “this”

Quotation marks

Quotation Marks

  • Enclose a term in quotation marks for an exact match

    seton hill = matches terms anywhere

    “seton hill” = matches this exact phrase

How google works

How Google Works

  • Brute Strength

  • Caching the Internet

  • PageRank Algorithm

Brute strength

Brute Strength

  • Banks of ordinary PCs (not supercomputers)

  • Multiple, geographically separate networks

  • Inexpensive to maintain or replace

  • Does not run Windows – saves $$



  • Google does not search the live internet.

  • Google stores a copy of the pages – faster than going live.

  • Google also caches the results of its searches.

  • Spidering – a “web crawler” follows links, searching for updated content.

Cache issues

Cache Issues

  • Cache can be out of date

  • Material removed from the internet may be available via Google’s cache for days or months

    • This can be good (if a site is briefly down)

    • …or bad (if you want to remove potentially libelous content)



  • Google uses incoming links to rank its search results

  • But Google also evaluates each of those incoming links

Google explains itself

Google Explains Itself

  • In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important." -- Google Technology

Google is not foolproof

Google is not Foolproof

Historical example: Searching for “seton hill university” used to return the message, Did you mean ‘seton hall university’?”

Manipulating pagerank

Manipulating PageRank

  • miserable failure

  • Jew

    • Google’s explanation

    • “google bombing”

Inherent geek bias

Inherent Geek Bias

  • Search Google for apple

  • Context: googling for groceries?

  • Geek bias is real

    • expected

    • manageable

Teaching implications sufficing

Teaching Implications: Sufficing

  • Sufficing: Natural Human Behavior

  • Even experts not good at rejecting “good enough” for “better”

  • Compare:

Google: Internet AddictionGoogle: Internet Addiction Disorder

Advanced search tips

Advanced Search Tips

  • Wildcards: “to * or not to *”

  • Synonyms “seton hill” ~sports see: ~violence; ~mohammed, ~jesus

  • Domain searchdean

  • Number ranges: robots 1900..1950

  • Definitions: define holocaust

Obscure but still nifty

Obscure, But Still Nifty

Just type into the Google search box

  • calculator: "134 + 353"

  • airplane tracker: "united 103"

  • measurement converter: "three teaspoons"

Special extended features

Special Extended Features

Google news historical context

Google News (Historical Context)

  • “People who are savvy about how the Internet works don't even try to find breaking news on the Net.”– Richard W. Wiggins “The Effects of September 11 on the Leading Search Engine.” First Monday 6:10 (2001).

  • Published 1 Oct, 2001.

  • Much has changed: Google News

Google news demo

Google News (Demo)

  • “seton hill” construction

  • “seton hill university”

  • Our student paper, The Setonian is one of several thousand of sites indexed

Google images demo

Google Images (Demo)


  • Returns saled-down “thumbnails”

  • Images classified by adjacent keywords

    seton hill


    pygmalion and galatea

Google scholar explanation

Google Scholar Explanation

  • Scientific Bias: Derrida: Physicist Bernard beats out philosopher Jacques. (Credit: Mike Arnzen)

  • Uneven results. “Jerz, DG” and “Jerz, Dennis G.” are considered different authors.)

  • Automated: If it looks like a citation, Google Scholar treats it like one.

Teaching implications google scholar

Teaching Implications: Google Scholar

  • Google Scholar is likely to frustrate and confuse the average student.

    • Many sources are offline.

    • Searches not filtered by subject.

    • Student papers get into the system.

  • More exclusive than ordinary Google.

Google scholar case study

Google Scholar Case Study

  • Google: Internet Addiction Disorder

  • Google Scholar:Internet Addiction Disorder

  • Google: Internet Addiction

  • Google Scholar: Internet Addiction

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