Are you as scholarly as Google Scholar?

Google Scholar is a new search engine for me and gives free access to more scholarly literature across many publishing formats and disciplines. Even more impressive is the ability to link into other library collections such as the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) which was as easy as going into the settings and adding this to my list. To get started and try this new search strategy I did as many of my students do – watched a YouTube clip! Are you as scholarly as Google Scholar?

Firstly as a starting point I thought about the relevant search terms and related terms or synonyms. Below is a table of vocabulary that I used to conduct my expert searches on Google Scholar.

Figure 1. Relevant Terms

Figure 1. Relevant Terms

Search 1

Search String Used: “inquiry learning” AND “Inquiry Based Learning” AND “Middle School” AND “Science”

This being my first search brought 1,160 articles in only 0.08sec and after scanning the first few articles I realised that this was still not quite as relevant a search and that I would need to refine this next time. Perhaps using better Boolean operators would see this change dramatically? Another interesting thing to consider when using Google Scholar is that of access to the document. One article that was of interest was that of Coleburn (2000) as it was cited 203 times which I thought was high. The subjects listed and recent citations made me want to find this even more. Fortunately this article was accessible through QUT as a PDF.

Google Scholar Search 1

Figure 2. Google Scholar Search 1

Search 2

Search Strings Used:

  1. (inquiry learning AND Information Seach Process) AND (primary AND elementary) AND Science
  2. (inquiry learning AND Information Search Process) AND (primary AND elementary) AND Science
  3. (inquiry learning AND Inquiry Based Learning) AND (primary AND elementary) AND Science
  4. (“inquiry learning” AND “Inquiry Based Learning”) AND (“primary” AND “elementary”) AND Science
  5. (“inquiry learning” AND “Inquiry Based Learning”) AND (“primary” AND “elementary”) AND Science

Again before I did my second search I did some more research about the use of more complicated Boolean Operators and search terms such as parenthesis. The use of YouTube clips was employed to better my skills. As you can see by my initial use of parenthesis and a spelling error I was well on my way to discovering how to use this new tool more competently. Search 1 gave me 17,800 hits while search 2 with correct spelling brought 123,00 with the search terms scattered throughout the articles. This sent me back to researching Boolean operators where I remembered that using talking marks kept the word string together. Searching with parenthesis, talking marks and AND to link the related terms finally narrowed my search to 1,100 results but after a great deal of reading found only one article about attitudes towards learning in Science by Wolf (2008) which I have not included in my annotated bibliography as it was accessible only to subscription members. This makes me aware of accessibility and not being able to rely on Google Scholar for all sources of information. I took this bibliographic information and tried searching for the article on QUT but was unsuccessful.

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Figure 3: Google Scholar Search 2

Figure 3: Google Scholar Search 2

Search 3

Search String Used: (“Guided Inquiry” AND “Information Search Process AND primary NEAR Science

In my previous search I was perplexed by the list of articles dating from 1985 to 2001 and saw that there was not a great deal of citation or even links to the QUT library. This indicated a lack in currency and therefore made me question the accuracy of these articles. Considering that I had not used the related term Guided Inquiry (GI) it was clear that another search would be necessary. As GI is grounded in constructivist principles and connects with the Information Search Process (I.S.P.) this was to be the next synonym used. The decision to use the Boolean operator NEAR was based on the fact that my ISP is a primary science unit and having these relevant terms close by would be ideal. In this search I found an interesting article by FitzGerald (2011) that explains a Guided Inquiry unit conducted by Ross Todd and interestingly enough was cited by Bernadine Power a past QUT TL student.

Figure 4: Google Scholar Search 3

Figure 4: Google Scholar Search 3

These are the articles of interest that will form part of my annotated bibliography:

Colburn, A (2000). “An inquiry primer”. Science scope (Washington, D.C.) , 23 (6), p. 42.

FitzGerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice.


Wolf, Stephen J. (05/2008). “Learning Environment, Attitudes and Achievement among Middle-school Science Students Using Inquiry-based Laboratory Activities“. Research in science education (Australasian Science Education Research Association) , 38 (3), p. 321.

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Which search engine will I use?

During a recent Information Learning Nexus discussion there was reference made to numerous search engines. This was such an exciting moment where my normal list of six search engines that I refer to was stretched to a new level. After a simple Google search I discovered that there was a plethora of more age appropriate search engines available to use in middle to upper primary classes.

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Some of the discusses search engines included were:

I really liked the Word Sift search engine and found that it had some good visual word or theme brain storming abilities as seen in the image below.


Below is a link to some of my well used search engines for middle and upper primary aged students. In order to evaluate these search engines reference has been made to Kathy Schrock’s  The 5 Ws of Web Site Evaluation. After undergoing my own Google search of other ways to evaluate web sites I found an article written by Lewandowski (2012) entitled A Framework for Evaluating Retrieval Effectiveness of Search Engines  and considered results, presentation and offered a frame work for evaluating effective information retrieval. He suggest the categories seen in the table below:


Search Engine Evaluation


Lewandowski, D. (2012),  A Framework for Evaluating Retrieval Effectiveness of Search Engines 

Kathy Schrock’s  The 5 Ws of Web Site Evaluation