NSW Department of Education

Searching and sorting information effectively

For teachers
For parents
For students

Key message

With these handy hints, anyone can be an expert at searching and sorting information online. Knowing how to effectively search for and sort through information can make browsing the web safer and more productive. Teachers and parents can model to children and young people how to use search terms effectively and how to select trustworthy sources online.

Children and young people can struggle to exactly the information they need when faced with the vast amount of information that can be found online. You can help children and young people search and sort online information effectively with the following tips.

Using keywords and shortcuts to search

Show children and young people how to use advanced search terms to help them find exactly what they are looking for when using search engines.

  • Use specific search terms. Choose Ancient Greek Pottery rather than Pottery when researching for a school assignment on ancient Greece.
  • Use quotation marks to search for exact phrases. For example searching 2016 Olympic Games "High Jump" results will restrict your search to pages where the words 'High Jump' are found next to each other.
  • Use the minus symbol (-) to exclude a word from your search. Searching jaguar speed -car will not show you any search results that include the word 'car'.
  • Use the asterisk symbol (*) as a wildcard or when searching for different spelling variations. You could search Tallest * in the world to see all results about the tallest objects in the world. You could also search for parliament* and the search results will show you all the variations on the word parliament (parliaments, parliamentary, parliamentarian, etc).
  • You can refine your search even further by searching for information on a particular site. Consider site:www.abc.com.au news to find search results for news that come only from the ABC.
  • You can even mix different search terms together. What do you think would appear with this search request? parliament* "tax" -GST
  • Use a reverse image search. Paste your image into the search bar and search for similar images, images with similar objects or websites with similar objects. Get support for compatible devices and search engines.

How to know information is trustworthy

You are more likely to find trustworthy information from a site you know and trust. Help your child or young person make choice about the quality and trustworthiness of sites online by guiding them in asking questions about information they find online and the sites on which they find it. There are many strategies for evaluating sources of information. The WWWDOT strategy and CARS method both offer simply structured ways for users to evaluate the trustworthiness of websites.

  • Many websites are not checked for accuracy, so you need to be a ‘detective’ and think about what you’re reading.
  • Talk about what reliable sources are. Ask: ‘Is it a well-known news source or information written by an expert?’
  • Discuss what sites, people and organisations you think are trustworthy for you, and why.
  • You can compare information from different websites to verify it. If multiple trustworthy websites say the same thing, it is more likely that the information is accurate. Wikipedia might be a good place to start, but is it possible to find another trustworthy site that backs up information that has been posted on a Wikipedia page?

As part of evaluating a website, it can be useful to recognise the difference between official and personal sites. Domains can offer some help: a website with ".gov" should be associated with a government agency; and a website with ".edu" should be associated with an educational organisation. Other domains such as ".org" and ".net" are no longer strongly regulated.

Top tips

Use child-friendly search engines

Safe Search Engines screen out inappropriate sites and material. Encourage your children to use Safe Search Kids, KidzSearch, Kiddle or Swiggle.

Use safe search settings

Information from the UK Safer Internet Centre can help you take advantage of safety features offered by popular browsers. Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! 7, as well as popular services, YouTube and iTunes, have safe search settings to filter out inappropriate content.

Protect devices

Searching the internet can place your computer at risk from viruses and other types of malware. Ensure that all devices are installed with security software, that is regularly updated.

Bookmark preferred websites

Bookmarks are a great way to keep track of appropriate and trustworthy sites.

Additional resources

Related resources

No items found.

Curriculum and syllabus links


  • 'Refine web searches', Google, accessed 29 January 2022
  • 'Search with an image on Google', Google support, accessed 17 June 2022
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