19 May 2010
By Johnna S. Horton, Director of Library/Media Services
Google is an amazing and powerful tool. I use it often for finding simple information; how many tablespoons in a cup (16), the population of Iceland (317,414 in 2008), or the definition of diversity, (noticeable heterogeneity, according to Princeton). These are all examples of “ready reference” questions; easily found in a single source such as a dictionary, almanac, or encyclopedia. Google has become that source for many people; but as easy as it is to find certain facts, it can be overwhelming for anyone looking for more specific information. Luckily, people have written Google tutorials and recorded tips and tricks to help users target the information they seek.
One great source of helpful hints is www.googleguide.com. Google Guide was created by Nancy Blachman because she wanted to document some of the major capabilities of the Google search engine in one place. Essentially, Google Guide is a tutorial for advanced searching on Google. There are tutorials for Novice, Expert, and Teen; cheat sheets for general searching and using Google as a basic or scientific calculator; and if you’re impatient or are just curious about a certain function of the search engine, you can skip to a specific area of the tutorial instead of going through the complete tutorial.
In all of the discussions about information and technology literacy, I tend to focus on a couple of main points: 1) not everyone in the South Central College population is comfortable with the process of finding information online and; 2) even if people are comfortable with “Googling it,” they probably aren’t always retrieving information that is useful and/or accurate. Google Guide won’t do the analysis for content, but at least it’s a way to filter out all the excess “noise” that the Internet offers.