Graphic For Explaining How Search Engines Work

This one is a little off topic for ACRLog but I think it helps to point out the amount of good content out there that can help support what we try to do in the classroom through user education. I do a few instruction sessions where part of the exercise involves helping students to understand how search engines, particularly Google, actually work – and how they determine the ordering of search results. If you want to experiment try asking students to explain their understanding of how it all works. After getting a fair number of complete misunderstandings and some interesting fictional accounts, it’s now time for you to explain how they actually do work. That’s where it can get a little tricky. You don’t want to be overly technical, boring or detail oriented – and you may be trying to fit this into a 50-minute session.

That’s why I was pleased to discover this graphic as part of this larger series of articles about Google that appeared in the Chicago Tribune yesterday. I think this is the sort of graphic that, while the print would be small on a projected screen, has graphics that are appealing and provide a logical explanation of the path through which web content is indexed and made retrieveable by engines. I think this would allow me to quickly present the inner workings of an engine like Google in a concise and logical manner (admittedly, my past attempts to describe this process have resulted in more than a few perplexed looks from students). As far as getting to it quickly when I need it – since this page probably won’t be available over time, I FURLed it for when I need to retrieve it – although I suppose you could capture it with a tool like Snag-It to create your own graphic.

It always surprising, in a pleasant way, to discover something like this graphic, but it also makes me wonder how much other good content is constantly flying under our radar. This is particularly applicable to the many graphics and resources librarians are creating on their own for purposes like user education. I can sometimes find these sorts of things in MERLOT or ACRL’s own PRIMO, but not often enough. I guess that bloggers can help by sharing these resources as they are discovered.

One thought on “Graphic For Explaining How Search Engines Work”

  1. Although as someone who works closely with academic libraries, the use of a very stylised graphic such as this is that it is intentionally promoting Google as the de facto research tool. However, for many libraries Google and Google Scholar are driving users away from in-library resources, and it is now becoming harder to encourage uage of increasingly e-based resources (and remaining print ones) – and not help promote the usage of the ‘free’ global library that is the googlised-internet.

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