You are here:

Search engines on the World Wide Web: A comparison of instructional methods to improve syntactic knowledge

, The Pennsylvania State University, United States

The Pennsylvania State University . Awarded


Research has shown students often have a difficult time searching the World Wide Web, particularly when formulating appropriate search queries. Although instruction on Web searching is available to assist students, it is not clear whether this instruction fulfills the goal of improving students' ability to create suitable search queries. The available instruction generally consists of providing examples of searches with short procedural descriptions of how to enter the query into the engine. No research has shown this to be an effective method.

A review of the literature suggests three types of user knowledge are important in the interaction between the user and the search engine: declarative knowledge, syntactic knowledge, and semantic knowledge. In this study, declarative knowledge is defined as an understanding of factual information about a search engine. Syntactic knowledge is the user's understanding of the appropriate formulation of a search query. Semantic knowledge is the user's understanding of the major objects and actions of a search engine.

This study examined three instructional treatments: instruction by examples, conceptual models without illustrations and conceptual models with illustrations to determine the most effective method to aid searchers in using a search engine on the World Wide Web. Results show all three types of instruction are effective for increasing declarative, syntactic, and semantic knowledge. Results also show that instruction by example was the most effective for increasing syntactic knowledge, the critical element for using a search engine. Correlations between the different types of knowledge were found to be low. Implications for instruction and future research are considered.


Colaric, S.M. Search engines on the World Wide Web: A comparison of instructional methods to improve syntactic knowledge. Ph.D. thesis, The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved September 23, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 22, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or


Cited By

View References & Citations Map

These links are based on references which have been extracted automatically and may have some errors. If you see a mistake, please contact