Google & Google Scholar

Where do I start?

1. Make a list of terms relevant to your search. These include general terms (eg inquiry learning) and more specific terms relating to the educational sector (primary, secondary) and curriculum area (SOSE). Each term will have synonyms and related terms associated with it. Each curriculum area will have more specific terms eg SOSE encompasses subject areas such as history, geography and environmental studies. Note that that in the US, primary is called elementary and SOSE is called “social studies”.

2. Create some search strings. A search string is a complete search expressed as a mathematical equation using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT – see this page for more explanation)

A simple search string is:

“inquiry learning” AND primary AND history

A complex search string is:

(“information literacy” OR ” information seeking” OR “information search process”) AND (primary OR elementary) AND (SOSE OR ” studies of society and environment” OR “social studies” OR geography)

Note: I have used brackets (parentheses) to force the database to compute what is INSIDE the brackets before it computes what is outside the brackets (same principle as an equation in basic algebra). I have used double quotes to search for an exact phrase.

Here are some sample Google searches:

1. primary science inquiry learning

Google treats this as:  primary AND science AND inquiry AND learning 


2. primary science “inquiry learning”

Google treats this as primary AND science AND “inquiry learning”


3. primary science (“inquiry learning” OR “inquiry based learning OR “guided inquiry”)

Google treats this as primary AND science AND (“inquiry learning” OR “inquiry based learning OR “guided inquiry”)


4. (primary OR elementary) science (“inquiry learning” OR “inquiry based learning OR “guided inquiry”)

Google treats this as (primary OR elementary) AND science AND (“inquiry learning” OR “inquiry based learning OR “guided inquiry”)

Google search tips:

This is one of the best search tips pages ever – I dare you to take the search challenge (I did!!!).

Here are some pages from Google on search tips:

Note that the NOT operator (exclusion of a word) is rendered as a minus sign that is butted up to the word you want to exclude. Do not use the word NOT, even as capitals, as Goggle treats it as a stop word (i.e. a word it ignores). The NOT operator is very handy if you are searching for inquiry learning but want to exclude science e.g.:

“inquiry learning” -science is treated as “inquiry learning” NOT science.

Check out this video where I demonstrate searching Google for sources on maths inquiry. In watching it back I realised that I made a mistake, as in constructing a compound search string I used the term post-secondary, however, when enclosing in double quotes to direct Google to search for the term as an exact phrase, I omitted a set of double quotes at one end. This means Google would have searched for post AND secondary, rather than “post-secondary”! Serves me right for trying to do a complex search when a simpler search would have been just as fruitful!

Google Scholar

Google Scholar searches a database of scholarly information such as journal articles, books and conference papers. It is a citation database, that means that it also shows you who cities the sources in their reference list. This is very handy to track the evolution of ideas and it allows you to browse other relevant sources.

NB: Please set up Google Scholar to search the QUT Library databases. This will allow you to access the full text of the sources using your QUT authentication. On this video I show you how to set up this function, and I do a very brief search in order to demonstrate how Google Scholar works.