What Do You Need to Know to Use a Search Engine? Why We Still Need to Teach Research Skills


  • Daniel M. Russell Google




For the vast majority of queries (for example, navigation, simple fact lookup, and others), search engines do extremely well. Their ability to quickly provide answers to queries is a remarkable testament to the power of many of the fundamental methods of AI. They also highlight many of the issues that are common to sophisticated AI question-answering systems. It has become clear that people think of search programs in ways that are very different from traditional information sources. Rapid and ready-at-hand access, depth of processing, and the way they enable people to offload some ordinary memory tasks suggest that search engines have become more of a cognitive amplifier than a simple repository or front-end to the Internet. Like all sophisticated tools, people still need to learn how to use them. Although search engines are superb at finding and presenting information—up to and including extracting complex relations and making simple inferences—knowing how to frame questions and evaluate their results for accuracy and credibility remains an ongoing challenge. Some questions are still deep and complex, and still require knowledge on the part of the search user to work through to a successful answer. And the fact that the underlying information content, user interfaces, and capabilities are all in a continual state of change means that searchers need to continually update their knowledge of what these programs can (and cannot) do.




How to Cite

Russell, D. M. (2015). What Do You Need to Know to Use a Search Engine? Why We Still Need to Teach Research Skills. AI Magazine, 36(4), 61-70. https://doi.org/10.1609/aimag.v36i4.2617