The Search Process
How does an expert search? What process can I follow?
It turns out there is a regular pattern that experts follow as they think their way through the process of searching for difficult information on the Internet. First they decide exactly what they want, where they are most likely to find it, how they are mostly likely to find it, and then what they will do next after each step they take. They constantly fluctuate between looking at the big picture of what they want and the little picture of analyzing what they have found. It looks something like this.
Analyze the diagram. Begin with Define. A true problem solving process will not only move from the blue arrows, through the red arrows, to the black arrow; it may make many revolutions through the cycle before locating exactly what is sought. Surfing the net is random exploration; problem solving involves definite questions and answers.
The following table illustrates the critical questions experts ask themselves while conducting a search. These are noted in the four corners of the Problem Solving Process diagram.
Critical Thinking Questions, Tasks and Examples
|Questions||Critical Thinking Tasks||Example Items|
What characteristics, concepts, and formats are you looking for?
When do you need the information? (How long can you spend looking?)
| *Time now/Time total
Where is the most likely location in which to find this information?
How will you search? (What tools will you use? What options would be most helpful?)
Tools: *Directories/Meta-SearchEngines/Search Engines/SiteSearch
Rules: *Keywords/Category names/Operators/Features
Why did your search return the results you received? (Is this what you wanted? What clues are revealed to help you structure your search more efficiently?)
*Compare results to goal
*Evaluate criteria of success
*Adequate statement/Needs revision/Needs restating
*Realistic goal/Realistic parameters/Realistic comparison criteria
What did you do Next? (Were you finished? If not, how did you refine your search and try again?)
Let's try it!
1. Open a word processing page on your computer so that you can see both it and this page at the same time. Side by side works best for most people. Got that? Good, now:
2. Type WHAT at the top of the page. Ask yourself each of the What questions. Type your answers under the word WHAT. Don't worry if it does not make sense; these are just rough notes. You will pick out the patterns later.
WHAT characteristics, concepts, and formats are you looking for?
- Do you want facts or opinions?
- Do you want single or multiple perspectives?
- Should the data be quantitative or qualitative?
- Does the data need to be reliable or is less reliable acceptable.
- Are you looking for various concept representations?
- Do you want text, pictures, or sound?
- What synonyms or other nyms would be helpful
3. Now repeat the same process for each of the other question words: WHEN, WHERE, HOW, WHY, and WHAT NEXT.
WHEN do you need the information? (How long can you spend looking?)
- What are your established time parameters?
- When you analyze tradeoffs, what time is left?
- How much time can you spend now, and how much can you spend in time total?
- Which facts can rely on recall and which need precision?
WHERE is the most likely location in which to find this information?
- Select the most likely location non-internet, Internet, Invisible, WWW, Domain(s), Site(s) , Document(s), or other format.
- Which is the most probable and which is less probable?
- Are there any time or accessibility issues?
- What are its strengths?
- Is it on the Visible, Invisible, or Opaque Web?
HOW will you search? (What tools will you use? What options would be most helpful?)
- Is it searchable by Directories, Meta-Search Engines, Search Engines, SiteSearch engines, or Site maps?
- Which are the most useful and which the least useful?
- Are there any time or accessibility issues?
- What are its strengths?
- What keywords, category names, operators, and features work best with this search?
WHY did your search return the results you received? (Is this what you wanted? What clues are revealed to help you structure your search more efficiently?)
- Compare results to goal, evaluate goal, and evaluate criteria of success.
- What can you generalize from these results? Specify?
- Are you working from an adequate problem statement? Does it need revision? Need restating?
- Do you have a realistic goal? Realistic parameters? Realistic comparison criteria?
WHAT NEXT What did you do Next? (Were you finished? If not, how did you refine your search and try again?)
- How did you refine your goal? Refine topic?
- How did you refine your strategy? Refine tactics?
- Was your topic too broad or too narrow? Too complex or too simple?
- After you changed your tactics did the results turn out better?
4. Then take a good look at your notes. What patterns do you see in your answers? What are the same words or categories of words that come up repeatedly? What answers cluster around one or two concepts? What particular invisible web database would have your answer if it existed?
5. Take the best search terms and search engines or databases you found and try a few queries. How did you do? Better or worse than you would have before this exercise? Which part of this exercise made you think more than any other?
6. Congratulations! You've been searching like an expert.
How can I learn more?
If you would like to learn more about critical thinking skills and problem solving as they relate to the search process, explore these great web sites too.
Hannel, Ivan; Lee Hannel; and Maria Veronica Hannel. "Highly Effective Questioning." homepage (2002): Hannel Educational Consulting 24 Nov. 2003 < http://www.hannel.com/index.html >.
Download Hannel's Powerpoint explanation of Highly Effective Questioning to learn how searching on the Internet develops critical thinking, skills for life long learning. (Must have Microsoft PowerPoint software on your computer.)
Hummel, John H. and William G. Huitt. "What You Measure Is What You Get." GaASCD
Newsletter: The Reporter 10-11 (Feb. 1994): Valdosta State University 24 Nov.
< http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/files/wymiwyg.html >.
This paper examines how assessment affects teaching practices when developing critical thinking, a must read for those serious about curriculum integration.
Johnstone-Yellin, Jason and Diane Kelly-Riley. "The Critical Thinking Rubric." Critical Thinking Project (1999): Washington State University 24 Nov. 2003 < http://wsuctproject.wsu.edu/ctr.htm >.
Finally, the perfect rubric for assessing research papers. Now you will know when the student has thoroughly researched a topic or not.
Marzano, et. al. "Dimensions of Thinking: A Framework for Curriculum
and Instruction." Critical Thinking in a Digitized Age (13 Aug. 1999):
Learning Technologies 24 Nov. 2003
< http://lth3.k12.il.us/crit_think/CORECONCEPTS.html >.
Marzano, et al, in their book, Dimensions of Thinking: A Framework for Curriculum and Instruction, have defined a set of core concepts and principles for integrating critical thinking into instruction.
Mesher, David. "Mission Critical." (1995): San Jose State University
24 Nov. 2003
< http://www2.sjsu.edu/depts/itl/ >.
David Mesher has posted an entire critical thinking course online to take or teach as you see fit.
Authored by Lora K. Kaisler 2003