SweetSearch is the product of 100,000+ hours of research that went into creating findingDulcinea's 700+ Web Guides and thousands of articles. This content links to tens of thousands of Web sites that have been evaluated as credible by our research experts and librarian and teacher consultants.
SweetSearch searches a "whitelist" comprised only of these 35,000 links, as well as sites we uncover by sifting through recommendations of librarians and teachers on their blogs and social bookmarking sites. You know those great lists you've been bookmarking for years? Well, SweetSearch is a giant, searchable repository of them.
It's likely that, had we sat down at the beginning to find a list of 35,000 credible sites, we would not have done it nearly as well as we did by instead finding, evaluating, organizing and annotating hundreds of Web Guides to the best 25-75 sites about a particular subject, or the best 5-8 sources about thousands of events in history, famous people, or timeless news topics.
We constantly evaluate the search results in SweetSearch and "fine-tune" them, by increasing the ranking of Web sites from organizations such as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, PBS and universities. We do more than merely exclude spam sites; we also exclude marginal sites that read well and authoritatively, but lack academic or journalistic rigor, and thus are not cite worthy.
For a bevy of reviews of findingDulcinea and SweetSearch from top educators, see our media kit; to add SweetSearch to the search options on your Web browsers, click on the "Add On" box on SweetSearch; or get a widget for SweetSearch, to embed it on your school Web site.
For younger learners, we've recently introduced a beta version of SweetSearch4Me, which is the only search engine that prominently ranks high quality Websites created for elementary school students, and mixes them with accessible primary source sites.
(Please note that SweetSearch4Me is the only variant search engine; our landing pages for School Librarians, Social Studies Teachers, Biographies, etc. do not contain their own versions of SweetSearch; they all highlight particular content from findingDulcinea and other sites that are useful to the target group, but the search engine included is the original version of SweetSearch).
Technology journalist Paul Gilster wrote in his column in The News Observer, "Search here and you're working in a universe of checked, verifiable sources and solid information.....Google or Bing may find many of the same sites, but what I've noticed is that some of the better sites for a particular topic wind up deep in their search results, often outranked by Web pages more commonly used but of inferior quality...I was impressed with SweetSearch's focus on credible scholarship and emphasis on primary source materials."
Our favorite review came from an impressive member of our target audience - Amanda, who blogs as "Farmgirl Writes," and deemed SweetSearch "an amazing search engine," and explained,
"Within a half-an-hour, I was ready to type my essay, wondering why I'd wasted a half a day searching with Google and EBSCOhost. (Sorry Google. I still love you - just not for research anymore.) Why didn't I discover this before? If I had known about Sweet Search at the beginning of World History, I think I would have saved myself hundreds of hours of research."
The result? As Amanda wrote, students find what they need, and they find it faster. When my generation was in school, the librarian pointed us to pre-screened resources on our general subject, and we decided which ones were the most relevant to our specific research project. That’s what SweetSearch does for students with online resources.
To enable students to better scan results to determine relevancy, we've partnered with Yolink. From a SweetSearch results page, click on the Yolink toolbar on the left side, and add a term to narrow your search. Yolink will then browse your original search results and show an expanded view of the results in which your additional term appears. Yolink then enables you to save excerpts of search results, with the source link, to a Google doc, Web-based email, or social bookmarking and sharing services such as Diigo, and to the citation generator Easy Bib.
Together, SweetSearch, Yolink and EasyBib are utterly transforming Web search for students, from something they can barely use to something they can use quite effectively.
Of course, students still need to follow the principles laid out in our Ten Steps to Better Web Research by, among other things, formulating good search queries, and often looking past the first few results to find the very best ones. Another principle is to use more than one search engine, as not even we use SweetSearch exclusively - when we research an article, we start with SweetSearch and usually find substantially all we need there, but then we always cross-check against other search engines and databases, and so should your students. To facilitate this, SweetSearch includes a toggle option to view the search results from Google.
Many of the results returned by Google and Bing aren't quite up to snuff for including in a school paper. Wikipedia ranks first on both engines. While many people find Wikipedia a good place to begin their research, most educators are frustrated that students use it almost exclusively, and not wisely. For this reason, Wikipedia almost never shows up in SweetSearch results.
For "War of 1812," the second result on Google is "Gateway New Orleans," which includes a brief summary of the war by an unknown author. The purpose of the site is to promote tourism in New Orleans, not to promote scholarship on the War of 1812. And both search engines prominently display a link that contains a teaser summary of the war by Gala Films, whose purpose is to get you to buy a movie.
Both of these sites rank so high because general commercial search engines display recently published content high in its results, since many times that is what the user finds most relevant. But when it comes to a war that ended nearly two centuries ago, recently produced material has little advantage over the “classics.”
Both search engines also prominently feature "Warof1812.ca," and "Warof1812.net," likely because of the specificity of their domain names. The first offers a lot of material written by two people, whose credentials are not provided. The site contains no "About Us" section, and its primary purpose is to sell products relating to the war. The second is the result of a long-abandoned project to put student material on the Internet; it's primary purpose now seems to be to drive you to search the topic yourself on Google.
On the first page of SweetSearch's results, you'll find precisely the Web sites that a teacher wants students using. The first result is the Library of Congress' entire collection of primary source documents on the War of 1812. The second is a comprehensive ThinkQuest created by students under the supervision of teachers and professors, followed by sites from the National Archives and the U.S. Military. Four sites in the next group—an Indiana University site about the political cartoons of the War of 1812, a Long Island University site about African-American Freedom Fighters, a Smithsonian site about the Star Spangled Banner, and the Avalon Project of Yale University—are sites that students could use to solidly distinguish their work from that of their classmates. Where are these results on Google and Bing? Scattered through the third to seventh results pages.
Again, Wikipedia ranks first for Google and Bing. Also appearing prominently, again due to the specific domain names, are "Shakespeare.com" and "Shakespeare-online.com." Each of these is a well-written "passion site," one created by an individual who is passionate about the subject, but does not possess academic credentials that would enable a student to rely on the sites when writing an academic paper. Each engine also contains several sites that are only about selling products.
On SweetSearch, you again find some outstanding academic resources, many of which are buried in Google or Bing. These include sites from the Library of Congress, the British Library, PBS and Project Gutenberg.
We'd love to get your feedback on SweetSearch. Try your own searches and let us know what you think by commenting below or by e-mailing us at Mark[dot]Moran[at]DulcineaMedia[dot]com
Founder and CEO