Drowning in Search Results

“You can find anything on Google!”, exclaimed my small group of fifth graders assigned to researching for an upcoming Science project. As we embarked on research, it was evident that the fact that students can find anything on Google resulted in students not finding anything at all.

Students were definitely wallowing in “Data Smog”, a term coined by David Shenk. Caught in a vicious cycle of searching, students quickly became confused and overwhelmed. Google offered too many results, many of which were difficult for an elementary student to comprehend.

With information so readily available, research has become increasingly complex. Since research skills are vital to academic success, fostering them at an early age is essential.

Early elementary students can benefit from researching definitions or images. Keep it simple by offering one online visual dictionary for use. Introduce the research process by establishing the connection between finding definitions and using a dictionary for reference.

Search terms

A good starting point for elementary students is familiarizing them with Boolean search terms. Properly utilizing search terms will allow students more focused search results. can guide your students through the key points Boolean searching.

Guide to Boolean Searching

Student Friendly Search Engines

Releasing students on Google produces search results that often exceed elementary reading levels. Age appropriate search engines are essential. 

InstaGrok-Grades 1 and up. An amazing search engine that presents information in a visual format. With a simple slide of a scale, the difficulty level of search results can easily be modified. Add in quizzes and a glossary, and InstaGrok becomes the ideal search engine for students.

Sweetsearch4me– Appropriate for Grades 1-4

Sweetsearch-Grades 3 and up

Both Sweetsearch search engines have educator reviewed material.

Refseek-Grades 4 and up.  RefSeek brings up academic reference materials.

Quintura Kids- Grades 1 and up. Safe search for students.

Research need not be so daunting if it is focused and organized. Assisting students in matching purposes with outcomes, and offering simple tools to refine the process will ensure an efficient and effective research experience.