|Google Tutorial - Search Strategies
article about local library computers
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Problems have either been solved already or they haven't. In a talk by
Dr. James H. Lytle, Superintendent of Trenton Public Schools at the
time, circa 2002, he addressed problem solving strategies for educators
and said these two kinds of problems have been called the 'technical'
(solved already) and the 'adaptive' (not already solved). When problem
solvers first face a problem, it's likely they don't know whether a
solution already exists. The prudent thing to do would be to proceed as
though one does and to attempt to find it. If, after much searching, a
solution has not been found, then the resolute solver will try to
create a solution, possibly a brand new one. Computer users fall into
the category of problem solvers more often than they might admit. A
computer is often both the source of problems and the best means for
Using Google to resolve
technical issues involving computers
Resources for searching for answers to computer problems abound in the
Internet. Google is a favorite tool, though searching is best
approached with a plan of action in place. Here follow some tips on
Every Google search starts with a search string that is typed or pasted
into Google's search field. The words in your string are all used by
Google in the search; it considers them to have a logical 'AND' between
them as opposed to a logical 'OR.' This condition may be reversed for
particular terms if an operator like '-' is used, which is the logical
'NOT.' For example, the search string [martin
luther] will return results containing both words and will include
online articles that reference Martin Luther, the 16th Century seminal
figure in the Protestant Reformation as well as Martin Luther King,
Jr., the civil rights leader. However, the search string [martin luther
-king] will tend to suppress search results that reference Dr. King.
There are other logical operators and advanced search options that
Google Search offers. Check the links to the left for details.
Searching for the right words
Effective search strings can be just error messages and error codes
alone. Even just the text near the top of windows that appear seemingly
from nowhere during the startup process and sometimes randomly during a
user's session, can be used as starting points in the search for
answers to problems that computers pose. But it often happens that
there is a mysterious problem with the computer and the would-be
problem solver does not know the exact terms to use. In this case
he should enter a string using his own words. The results produced will
likely pertain to the problem at hand and contain more accurate terms
that can be included in further searches. The trick
is to either read over the few lines that Google returns for each 'hit'
it finds, scanning as you read for the better terms, or to click and
follow the links returned that seem to offer more promising results.
Search results produced by Google are presented in order of the number
of search-string terms it finds in web sites, and as close as possible
to the order of those terms as given by you. If the results seem too
general or just too many, try enclosing any terms that are part of a
phrase in quotation marks. This forces Google to consider the phrase in quotes
as a single term. You can also just add more words to the search
string. This forces Google to be more selective and to return fewer
hits. Conversely, if the results seem too few, use fewer words or
different words in your search string.
Remember too that Google will only take you into the public domain and
is barred from proprietary resources. Click the appropriate link at the left to review
John's earlier article on using computers and computer resources
brought to you by your local and county libraries.
When more creative strategies are required
Telling someone to BE creative is much easier than telling him HOW to
be creative. There is a general way to proceed, however. It's best to
begin by resolving any and all technical issues associated with the
problem, and by treating identifiable parts of the problem as technical
issues. In other words, get as much help as you can find. Try to
understand the problem as deeply as possible, and try to find tools
associated with the kind of problem at hand. Some tools are general and
may be applied across varied categories of problems: spreadsheets are
made for crunching numbers, but can double as list handlers; free
interpreter and AppleScript all allow a user to program a Windows or a
Macintosh computer to accomplish a task using an easy-to-acquire
language with simple, English-like syntax. In any case, know your tools
well before you begin this work.
Ways to approach creative problem solving have been identified. Here is
John's favorite: Concentrate on the problem and then forget about it.
Alec Baldwin's character, Jack Donaghy, on the TV comedy, 30 Rock,
called it the 'shower principle.' The idea is to think about the
problem intensely for a while and then go to sleep, or take a shower,
or anything that takes the mind off the problem. Eventually a solution
comes. Trust the force.
• Heifetz, R. A. & Linksy, M. (2002). Leadership on the Line.
Boston: Harvard Business Review Press. Subtitled as Staying alive
through the dangers of leading. This is the work to which Dr.
Lytle referred that describes two kinds of problems, except that with
computers there's no conflict of values as there can be in dealing with
people problems, and thus no real danger. Just fun.
March 9, 2013