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Super Searcher Tips


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I cover new search strategies, techniques, and tips for getting the most out of web research. This always-popular session includes my favorite discoveries. Presented at Computers in Libraries 2019.

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Super Searcher Tips

  1. 1. Super Searcher Tips Mary Ellen Bates March 26, 2019
  2. 2. @mebs Start with a clear focus What’s the purpose of this project? Who’s going to see the results? What will the answer look like? What do I need to find/do first? 3
  3. 3. @mebs Stay focused Separate essential from tangential Know when to say “when” Spend 25% of time post-processing 4
  4. 4. @mebs Make the answer clear What countries have the largest number of respiratory therapy training programs? According to our analysis, the countries outside the US with the most respiratory therapy training programs are, in descending order: […] 5
  5. 5. @mebs Detailed Research Results It appears that the United States is unlike any other country when it comes to accredited training programs for respiratory therapists. While the US has 443 respiratory care professional practice programs (according to the 2018 CoARC Report on Accreditation in Respiratory Care Education), very few countries have a dedicated professional role for respiratory health. Instead, according to an […] 6
  6. 6. @mebs What about privacy? 7 If it’s free, then you’re the product being sold.
  7. 7. @mebs Embrace Google’s brain Google monitors your searches Feature AND bug Expands search to find related info Filters search to limit the parameters 8
  8. 8. @mebs …and go private Log out of your browser And turn on Incognito/Private mode Use a VPN to leave the country Then use country-specific Google 9
  9. 9. @mebs …and go really private, I tested 4 other private search engines (h/t Searched neonicotinoids Compared first 10 results to Google All had good, relevant results 10
  10. 10. @mebs Private search engines Based in France, own search index Filters for news, social, images, video, “freshness” 6 of first 10 results not in Google 11
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  12. 12. @mebs Private search engines Survivor of the former Clusty,Vivisimo Clustering of search results (can even “remix”!) Useful for ambiguous questions 6 of first 10 results not in Google 13
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  14. 14. @mebs Private search engines Based in UK, own web index You can set your location (or “none”) 7 of 10 results not in Google results 15
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  16. 16. @mebs Private search engines “Uncensored Anonymous Search” 90% overlap with Google results Uncensored surfaces the weird (0% overlap with Google results) 17
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  19. 19. @mebs Using Google as a hack Can’t find something in a web site? Google it with site: May find unindexed page May find archived copy 20
  20. 20. @mebs Test Google’s adjacency For terms you want closely related, try all these: word1 word2 word1–word2 “word1 word2” “word1 * word2” 21
  21. 21. @mebs In first 30 results: millennials sustainability: 5 unique hits millennials–sustainability: 3 unique hits “millennials sustainability”: 17 unique hits “millennials * sustainability”: 12 unique hits 22
  22. 22. @mebs Google’s Dataset Search Includes OA aggregators (dryad, figshare) Searches metadata, not the data directly Quality of metadata varies wildly 23
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  25. 25. @mebs And a Google web search Limit to datasets from universities with site:edu, to govt data with site:gov Limit to dataset title with intitle:term 26
  26. 26. @mebs Use Maps creatively Use Street View to evaluate a business {show two photos} Use map to illustrate deliverable Geocode library content, browse on map 27
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  28. 28. @mebs Bing conducts ref interviews! Scroll through results page to find 3 suggestion boxes Useful to discern aspects, facets 29
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  30. 30. @mebs Last resort… finds “hidden” results Eliminates the most popular sites Find obscure and less-commercial sites 31
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  32. 32. @mebs Don’t get complex Too many terms = lower results Don’t use long OR statements Graze, don’t just dig deep Trust Learn to love relevance ranking 33
  33. 33. @mebs Try different approaches Industry/specialized terms Geographic/linguistic differences Process vs outcome 34
  34. 34. @mebs Search creatively Need info on a person? Local newspapers, business journals Social media YouTube interviews Google Images 35
  35. 35. @mebs Search creatively Use multiple sources; nothing is comprehensive Use libraries’ “LibGuides” to get smart keywords inurl:libguides 36
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  37. 37. @mebs Search LinkedIn posts Facebook for professionals Search for Content (instead of People, Jobs, Companies, Groups, etc.) 38
  38. 38. @mebs 39
  39. 39. @mebs Search social media on Google Not comprehensive but more complex searching,,, etc. Example: “female participation” “labor force” 40
  40. 40. @mebs Talk to people! Can’t find the answer? Ask! NOT the “Contact us” mystery box You’re a researcher, not a stalker LinkedIn, SlideShare, personal web pages, lit search 41
  41. 41. @mebs Teach info hygiene to clients Who cares about this? Look for info “containers”, not for the answer itself 42
  42. 42. @mebs Teach info hygiene “You settled for that?!?” See page 2 of search results… Fight confirmation bias Dare to compare When quick ‘n’ dirty isn’t good enough 43
  43. 43. @mebs Teach info hygiene Low-quality data = low-quality results Teach users to evaluate data sets Source, coverage, timeliness, accuracy, consistency, relevance Curate data sets for your org 44
  44. 44. @mebs Teach info hygiene Know your clients’ info habits Offer better info alternatives Put their favorites in context Know the pros AND cons of social media platforms 45
  45. 45. @mebs Bring some social media hacks Turn video auto-play off Facebook: SettingsVideo Twitter: Settings & Privacy LinkedIn: Settings & PrivacyAccount 46
  46. 46. @mebs Be curious! Move outside your research comfort zone Ask patrons/clients what they wish the library could do for them Change one thing every six months 47
  47. 47. @mebs Slides at Twitter: @mebs LinkedIn: maryellenbates Facebook: maryellenbates 48