external image Treasure.png
Ahoy! It's best to read with a question in mind as you search for the little treasures buried within this page. Consider this: What strategies do you use to help you decide which hyperlinks to follow when you are searching online?

Here is a little treasure to wet your palette. This slideshare provides educators with some background information and practical resources for teaching students to analyze their search results. Despite the fact that it is an advertisement for SweetSearch, this slideshare provides some valid points regarding the online reading and search behaviours of 21st century learners.

When reading online, most readers search with a purpose, whether it is to find information, to communicate, or for leisure. Once the question or purpose has been identified, an online reader performs several tasks in order to analyze search results:

A. Analyze hyperlinks in search results
B. Analyze the quality of results
C. Reflect on the affective dimension of analyzing search results and social impact on those results
D. Understand why certain websites are more visible than others in a search engine

A. Analyze hyperlinks

McKenzie (2009) says that that when we initiate our search, we need to use search logic. Teacher-Librarians are tasked with the mission to teach students Boolean search logic to initiate searches. See Laura Cohen's website for information on Boolean search logic. He describes search logic as the ability to use combinations of search terms, "that allows the researcher to eliminate irrelevant information and focus on the most promising sources" (pg. 36). This should happen not only at the beginning of a search, but also when a researcher reads the number of search results and scans those results to decide if relevant information has been provided. Sometimes, a search plan needs to be revised, and this is where tools such as Mindomo allow researchers to keep track of the strategies, key search terms, and relevant resources that they find.

When using search logic, the learner must ask:
  • Which hyperlinks have been useful? Does these provide links to other useful resources?
  • Where have I looked for information? Where have I not yet looked?
  • Do I need to change my plan?
McKenzie (2009) strongly recommends teaching students to use Google Search Advanced. See "Searching for the Grail," for activities to teach search logic.

Coiro (2005) suggests that in order to read efficiently online and analyze their search results, students must learn inferencing skills. Students need to be able to look at the hyperlinked resources and make the following inferences:
  • The author and intent of the website based on whether the website ends in .org, .com, .edu, or .net
  • Whether or not the website will be relevant, based on the brief annotation
  • Whether or not the website is reliable based on prior knowledge

Palincsar and Schutz (2011) emphasize the importance of students drawing from their prior knowledge about the research topic. For example, students can use what they know about their topic to decide if the information provided in the hyperlink annotation is relevant. Students might also know from experience that .gov websites tend to be a little more reliable than .com websites. The following is an excellent example of a Think-Aloud lesson for High School students, demonstrating how researchers can use the monitor, infer, negotiate, and clarify strategies as they analyze their search results. This page with screenshots can accompany the Think-Aloud lesson to provide a better idea of you might see as the instructor.

B. Analyze the quality of search results

Whenever possible, educators try to provide their students with reliable websites like ALA's Great Websites for Kids , especially for Elementary School students. While the message of this video is to search ahead of your students, this is not always possible. And so, this video illustrates the importance of teaching our students transferable skills in analyzing search results.

When we analyze search results, we need to consider the following:
  • Reliability
  • Relevance
  • Credibility
  • Accuracy
  • Type of Information (misinformation, malinformation, useless information, messed up, factual information)
  • Scope and Timeliness
  • Background of resources
  • Purpose/Intent

To help students become acquainted with the criteria that help one evaluate search results, Susan Beck (2009) provides links to websites where specific criteria are called into question. One can briefly analyze hyperlinked pages through the use of skimming and scanning strategies. However, a more thorough evaluation of websites is required before a student can use a website as a resource for information.

The following document, most appropriate for High School students, provides a framework with which students can analyze their search results.

CARDDS is a framework that might be more appropriate for Middle School and upper Elementary School, as it is a simplified version of the above mentioned qualities of an online source.

C. Reflect on the affective domain and social impact

One must not forget the affective dimension of analyzing search results, as reading online (one of many aspects of transliteracy) must be seen as a social and cultural process. According to Khulthau's (2007) model, students feel confusion and doubtfulness when their search provides few results, and optimism when they feel they are headed in the right direction. To avoid having students feel like they are being "fed to the sharks" or "walking the plank," it is necessary that educators provide students with transferable skills in analyzing search results. One engaging and effective way to have students participate in analyzing search results is through the use of social bookmarking tools like Diigo. Social bookmarking tools serve not only as a means for collaborative analysis and evaluation of online resources, but also as an organizational tool for online readers.

D. Understand search engine visibility

Coiro (2005) states that, "Reading online is a complex process that requires knowledge about how search engines work and how information is organized within Web sites." It is important for transliterate individuals to not only understand how to analyze search results, but also why search results appear as they do in a search engine. Activities where students learn how to make their content more easily found on YouTube, Google, etc. help students to better understand the rhyme and reason for how search results are displayed. This can be achieved by learning the importance of creating relevant, "trendy" titles; the importance of "tags"; the meaning of "views" on YouTube.

1st web designer.com teaches students about web design using prominence, density, frequency, and proximity to make their content more searchable. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), "is how and where to use the keywords on your website page to get higher positions for the given keywords and key phrases in search engines results yet keeping the page organically readable for your website visitors."
  • Prominence: Make sure that the key words you think people will use to find your site (key search words) are in the first sentence of each of your pages, as well as in your website description.
  • Frequency: Use your key search words several times in each page.
  • Density: The number of times you use your key word compared to the total number of words in a page is the density. The higher the density, the more likely your website is to turn up when those search terms are used by other researchers
  • Proximity: Without jeopardizing the quality of your content, write your key words closely together within each page.
This knowledge about SEO not only ensures that students understand how they can make their online content more visible, but also offers insight which allows them to be more critical when analyzing their search results, especially when considering the number of hits/views a result receives.

Once students understand what makes content searchable, they can filter their search results. Google offers some tips for filtering image results . It is also important for students to understand the impact that social media has on search results. They can simply search their own name to discover that many of their results are related to their participation in social networking sites.

WHY bother teaching students to analyze their search results?

McKenzie (2009) justifies teaching these important, transferable skills when he says, "When research is viewed as a mystery waiting to be solved, the dynamics shift away from the tedium of scooping. The student becomes a detective on the trail of a missing person, a missing truth, a missing solution" (p. 40). Like finding the treasure on a treasure map, the thrill is in the hunt. Why not challenge students to look at each search result as though it is a mystery, waiting to be solved?

Below are two lesson plans for the implementation of search results analysis.

Lesson Plan for Upper Elementary School and Middle School Students
Objectives (the learners will be able to):
  • Students will learn inferencing strategies to analyze their search results

Activating Prior Knowledge:
1. Students and teacher create a Big Question based on their unit of study.
2. Students determine what they already know about that topic, related to their Big Question.

Acquiring New Knowledge:
1. Teacher models how to input a search query into a search engine (ex.Yahoo! Kids) and displays the top 3 results.
2. Teacher models using the Think-Aloud strategy to ask these questions when looking at each hyperlink and annnotation:
  • Does the website address end with .org, .com, .edu, or .net? What inference can we make about the reliability of this website?
  • Who is the author and what is his/her intent?
  • Based on the brief annotation, will this website provide information to help us answer our Big Question?
  • Based on what we already know, will this website be reliable?

Applying New Learning:
1. Teacher asks students to help refine the search query (either add words or remove key words) and display the top 10 results.
2. In pairs, students use the Inferencing strategies modelled above to determine the purpose, intent, relevance, and reliability of each hyperlink in the results page.
3. Students select the 3 hyperlinks they would pursue for their research purposes and justify their choices in a class discussion.

  • Informal observation of student ability to select 3 quality resources.
  • Checklist to record student ability to support their choices.

Lesson Plan for High School Students
Objectives (the learners will be able to):
  • Students will learn inferencing strategies to analyze their search results
  • Students will work collaboratively using an online social bookmarking tool (Diigo) to organize search results

Activating Prior Knowledge:
1. Students and teacher create a Big Question based on their unit of study.
2. Students create a list of key words, related to their Big Question.
3. Using Diigo, teacher creates a Diigo group and reviews bookmarking and annotation using Diigo.

Acquiring New Knowledge:
1. Teacher models using the Think-Aloud strategy to ask these questions when looking at each hyperlink and annnotation:
  • Whose perspective will be represented and who is the target audience?
  • Based on the brief annotation, will this website provide information to help us answer our Big Question?
  • Based on what we already know, will this website be reliable?
2. Teacher models for students how to select the hyperlink, take a snapshot, bookmark, and annotate the analysis in Diigo.
3. Together, teacher and students add tags to the bookmark before the teacher shares the sample annotated bookmark with each of the groups.

Applying New Learning:
1. Teacher assigns students in groups of 3-4 to locate 5 online sources and snapshot, analyze, annotate, bookmark, tag, and share these resources.
(Teacher may want to impose a time limit, so that students do not do an in-depth evaluation of the website, but rather a brief analysis of the search results hyperlinks and annotations.)
  • Student answers to their Big Question.


Beck, S. (1997). The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly or Why It's a Good Idea to Evaluate Web Sources http://lib.nmsu.edu/instruction/evalcrit.html

Coiro, J., & Dobler, E. (2007). Exploring the online reading comprehension strategies used by sixth-grade skilled readers to search for and locate information on the Internet. Reading Research Quarterly, 42(2), 214-257.

Companion website to Coiro, J. (2011). Talking about reading as thinking: Modeling the hidden complexities of online reading comprehension. Theory Into Practice: Themed issue on new and critical perspectives on reading comprehension and strategy instruction, 50(2), 107-115.

Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L., Caspari, A. (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Libraries Unlimited.

McKenzie, J. (2009). Beyond Cut and Paste: Engaging Students in Making Good New Ideas. FNO Press; Bellingham, Washington.

Palincsar, A., & Schutz, K. M. (2011). Reconnecting Strategy Instruction With Its Theoretical Roots. Theory Into Practice, 50(2), 85-92. doi:10.1080/00405841.2011.558432

Todd, R. (1998). WWW, critical literacies and learning outcomes. Teacher Librarian, 26(2), 16-21. ProQuest Educaiton Journals Database. Document ID: 37812521

Schmar-Dobler, E. (2003). Reading on the Internet: The link between literacy and technology. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47(1), 80-85. ProQuest Education Journals database. (Document ID: 412625751).
Stripling, B. (2003). Fostering literacy and inquiry. School Library Journal, 49(9), S5-S7. ProQuest Education Journals database. (Document ID: 411227741).