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Library Tutorial for College Success Online

How Search Works

How is the information provided?  (Let’s talk about Google!)

In Week 4 you worked in your Area of Study groups to come up with topics, Big Questions, and sub-questions. Each member of your group took responsibility for two research questions.  Now that you have your research questions, we want to start thinking about how we can learn more about them. For most of us, the first stop when trying to find information is an internet search engine - whether for personal and/or academic purposes. Google is just one example of a popular search engine. Google averages about 3.5 billion searches a day and 1.2 trillion searches a year worldwide (Internet Live

Since many people use Google (especially in the United States) on a daily basis to find the information they need quickly, it is important to think critically about how Google actually works. How does the Google search engine come up with the search results for a particular search? How are these search results set up?

1. WATCH: 5 minute video featuring employees from Google and Bing discussing how search engines work.

2. WATCH: 4 minute video featuring researcher Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble discussing how search engines work. As you watch, take notes about what you learn from the video.

Keep in mind that much of her research took place several years ago, and the search results you see might not be exactly like hers.

For an update on the changes Google has made in response to Dr. Noble’s research read this March 16 2018 article she wrote for Time Magazine.


  • What biases do you see in the two videos - one from employees of Google/Bing versus one from a research professor)?
  • What strategies can we use to find the best information, now that we know how search algorithms work?
  • What do you want to know more about?
  • Do for-profit companies like Google have too much influence over how people receive information? Why or why not? (see article below)

"Google Abuses Its Monopoly Power Over Search, Justice Department Says in Lawsuit" / NPR News

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