Using the Internet to help kids do research is always a good idea. But you have to be careful so that they don’t waste time or run across inappropriate sites. How to help kids find what they need?

A couple of suggestions and a few kid-friendly search tools might help!

Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University, creator of the WebQuest, has also spent time creating helpful search strategies. His latest is called Four Nets for Better Searching.

His idea is pretty basic. Use Google and the following four suggestions to find exactly what you want.

Net 1 – Start Narrow
Bernie says to think of the “perfect web site” that would exist for you search topic. Put four or five of the keywords from that site into the search box of your search tool. Then think of sites that might show up because some of your keywords have multiple meanings such as the Disney movie or the space shuttle Atlantis. Put those words in the search box as well BUT be sure to put a minus sign in front of each of them.

A sample search for the legendary city of Atlantis might look like this:

Net 2 – Find Exact Phrases
Finding specific information is easier when you use quotation marks around your search term. Searching for a specific phrase such as American Civil War weapons? Putting quotations around the specific phrase tells the search tool to look for that specific set of words.

The sample search now looks like this:

Net 3 – Trim Back the URL
Once you find a great site snuggled deep down in web site’s hierarchy of folders, you suspect that there might be other pages that could be useful. To find them, truncate the URL. Simply put, delete the address one folder at a time.

Bernie’s example?

Now trim away the last part:

What do you see?

Anywhere along the way, you may be able to find what you’re looking for. If not, you’ll end up at the home page. Most will have some sort of search box that allows you to look for what you’re trying to find.

Net 4 – Look for Similar Pages
The Internet has over 50 billion web sites. The odds are that, no matter how good your search keywords, that you’ll never find all the good sites. One way to increase the odds is use Google’s ability to find sites that are similar to the great site you’ve already found. Type the word “related” and a colon before the web site address in the search box. Your new results will be a list of sites that are similar to your first site.

A sample?

The results?

Need a few kid-friendly search tools? All of the tools below are appropriate for your students.

KidsClick – A tool created by a group of librarians for kids

GoGoogligans – A newer site that blocks inappropriate sites based on keywords and that allows for specific site searchs

Quintura for Kids – A tool with both visual and textual results

42Explore – Not an actual search tool but a large collection of specific activities and resources by topic, pretty cool stuff here!

Find more kid-friendly tools at Social Studies Central

Have fun!