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Summer 2017

Feature: American fourth of July

fourth of july

Most countries celebrate a special day of national significance. In the United States, that day is the fourth of July. Other countries have their own days citizens celebrate. But could there be a country other than the United States that celebrates American independence on the fourth of July?

What nation other than the U.S. observes America’s Fourth of July?

Unless you know the answer, this can be a perplexing search challenge. Why is that? How do you possibly wade through an ocean of information about American fourth of July looking for information about a different country? The solution is sound search strategy.

Strategic searching is guided by three big questions

  1. What am I searching for?
  2. What authority would know the answer?
  3. How do I use keywords (and operators) to find the information?

As in the illustration, you need to be clear about your goal. If it's the peak on the left, that's a very different goal than the one on the right. Different routes must be taken. Who would you trust to find the way? In a situation like this, only an experienced sherpa. These are the same questions for searching online.

Knowing some background helps inform the answer to the first question. Without the opening paragraph of this article, is the 11-word question enough to guide this search? The question is carefully worded, but still the reader must make assumptions based on the words provided and their meanings.


1. The U.S. observes the fourth of July. It’s a holiday with public gatherings such as parades, speeches, music, picnicking, recreation and fireworks.
2. Other nations may also have a special day on the fourth of July, but it is not necessarily America’s special day. This is not the question. If you search for this, you won’t answer the question.
3. Other nations may choose to observe the fourth of July as an American holiday. This is the question. It’s not intuitive. Why would another nation do that?

Working through the meaning, the searcher knows not to look for national holidays that merely coincide with the fourth of July. The nation in question actually celebrates America on the fourth of July. They aren’t Americans but have decided to act like Americans on that day.

The second guiding question concerns an authoritative answer, not just ‘who would know the answer?’ In this case, an official source from the non-American country that celebrates July 4 as Americans should be sufficient. Therefore, the search must consider the source as well as the answer.

The third guiding question is how to find the answer. This is where query methods come into play. For present purposes, a query is whatever is entered into a search box input to a search engine.


Searching with a query is almost always the fastest option. The other choice is browsing: clicking links (not typing anything). There are only two things to put in a query: keywords and operators.

A keyword is anything typed that is not an operator. Words, numbers and strings of characters are all keywords. Search engines match queries with the content of pages stored in the search engine’s database. The more matches, the more relevant the results. A query can be a single word or an entire sentence or more. An effective query will usually have between 2 and 5 keywords.

Some keywords are better than others. These are usually nouns and numbers. Verbs and other forms of speech aren’t as good. Not all words can be used “as is” -- a different word needs to be substituted. Expert searchers tend to have extensive vocabularies and know how to pick the right keywords, which means they can recognize unique combinations of words.

Turning this question into a query, these words are all possible:

nation other U.S. observes America’s Fourth July

The “good as is” words are all the proper nouns. Looking at the rest, here’s what an expert searcher may be thinking:

    other nation This is a placeholder for the eventual answer which is going to be a proper noun, the name of a country
    observes This action word is likely not the right word as there are many ways to describe an action such as celebrate or celebration or observance or commemorate or commemoration. Others can be thought of

Operators are coded terms that trigger search engine functions. By default, the space between words is the AND operator. To eliminate a keyword, the operator is NOT (or a minus sign). The OR operator makes it possible to include alternate terms in one query without making it longer than 5 terms.

For example, fourth July other nation observation OR commemoration OR celebration OR festivities is really four different five-word queries.

Using NOT can be troublesome. If the query is fourth July NOT America all pages about the fourth of July that include the term America are eliminated. Any page that describes how a different country celebrates the American holiday will be excluded.

foot prints step by step

The Queries

A step by step search as it may be conducted by an expert searcher.

Query 1 Use “good as is” words and any other terms that may need to be substituted. The terms U.S. and America are left out since they may return too many sites about the US holiday.

other nation observes Fourth July (caps aren’t necessary)

Result: The top result in Google is “the one other country that celebrates the fourth of July (sort of).” To see what this is about, browse and skim the page. The country referred to is the Philippines, but they don’t celebrate it as an American holiday. They celebrate it as their own independence day from the United States. This doesn’t answer the question, but without thinking about it carefully, a searcher could make that mistake.

The second result in google is “how other countries celebrate the fourth of July.” This seems promising, but browsing this page reveals that it actually answers the question, 'when do other countries celebrate their independence days?' The answer is not the fourth of July.

The other first page results all seem to be about American practices to observe the fourth of July.

Query 2 Time to consider keyword substitution. What other words could be used? Found on the top two pages: celebrate (instead of observe), independence day (instead of fourth of July), country instead of nation.

other country celebrate fourth july

Result: The top two results are the same as before, but the third one looks promising: ‘trivia facts about independence day.’ Browsing reveals an answer to replace other nation: Denmark and Norway. The source is International Business News, but it’s not an authoritative ‘other nation’ source. The next step is investigative searching.

With an answer pending, it is easy to locate an authoritative Danish or Norwegian source to confirm the result. The next step is to find the information from one of these countries.

Query 3

country extension Denmark

Result: .dk

Query 4 The point of finding .dk is to use it with the site: operator to return information only from Danish sites.

celebrate fourth July site:dk

Result: The top result is from the Danish-American Business Forum and confirms that the Danes celebrate the American holiday. The reason why? Try looking that up.

Authored by Carl Heine, published May, 2017

Action Zone: Keyword Challenge

Self-paced tutorials on Reductive and Additive Strategies for creating effective queries. Explanations, examples and exercises using optimal number of keywords, identifying "good as is" keywords, invisible queries, keyword substitution and helpful operators. Includes thirteen interactive challenges. Go

Curriculum: Connections

Suggestions to integrate Query Instruction in other subjects and lessons. Go

Assessment: What Students Know

How to measure what students know about Querying and what to do with that information. Go

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