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American History: Survey

Web Research Guide

Creating a Search Strategy

  • Imagine your earth science teacher has instructed you to create a multimedia report. You decide that your report will be about volcanoes. If you do a random search on Google using the keyword volcanoes, your search would retrieve more than 480,000 results. That's more than you, or anyone, can handle in one afternoon! So where do you go from there?
  • Step 1: Formulate Research Questions
  • Start by writing specific research questions. Doing so will help you narrow your topic and determine exactly what information you need.
  • Sample questions:
    • How do volcanoes form?
    • What causes volcanoes to erupt?
    • What happens when a volcano erupts?
    • How many active volcanoes are there in the United States? in the world?
    • Can we predict volcanic eruptions?
    • What dangers are associated with volcanic eruptions?
  • Step 2: List Possible Sources of Information
  • Before going online, try to identify any sources that might have information on your topic. For example, you might list:
    • government agencies, such as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), or the National Park Service
    • museums with exhibits on volcanoes
    • university science departments specializing in volcano research
    • National Geographic or PBS/NOVA might have TV documentaries on famous volcanoes or volcanic eruptions. Perhaps they would also have information or interactive explorations on their Web sites.
  • Step 3: Brainstorm Possible Media Elements
  • Since you're creating a multimedia report, you'll need to find a variety of media resources, in addition to traditional informative texts. For example, you might try to look for:
    • video clips of erupting volcanoes
    • 3-D animations showing how volcanoes form or what happens when volcanoes erupt
    • photographs and maps of active and inactive volcanoes
    • audio interviews with volcanologists