STAK Activity

Searching is a Journey of Discovery

This activity helps students conduct exploratory searches in a structured way.


Students will often find themselves in situations where they must get acquainted with a new subject that they know very little about. This can be a daunting and frustrating process, and they can find it hard to conduct effective searches and find good sources. This activity gives students a methodology for approaching exploratory searches in a structured way that allows them to maintain an overview of the topic, while also identifying sites and resources that will be useful to them as they extend their knowledge. 


On completion of this activity, students will be able to: 

  • Become more knowledgeable on a new topic through exploratory searching.  
  • Use different search sites and resources in their exploratory research of a topic. 
  • Apply a structured approach to their exploratory search. 


In this activity, students make use of an exploratory search method to gain knowledge on a topic with which they are not familiar.  


Step 1
Introduce your students to the exploratory search strategy. This video is a great place to start:
Step 2
Provide your students with a list of different search sites, e.g., Google, Google Scholar, subject-specific databases, and subject portals.
Step 3
Put students into groups of four (max) and ask them to pick a topic about which they know nothing. Ideally, this will be linked to an assignment. Provide each group with a blank A3 sheet of paper (or Miro board or equivalent when working online) on which the students can write down:
  • “Good” keywords / keywords
  • Search sites and links
  • References to other sources
  • Subject experts
  • Words of no further search use.
Step 4
Give each group 10 minutes to search Google and Google Scholar for articles, websites, and documents that might be relevant to the topic. In reviewing their hits, ask them to look for new relevant keywords, people to investigate, and sources they need to explore further and to write this down on the A3 sheet.
Step 5
Swap A3 sheets between groups and ask each group to continue researching the topic now provided to them. This time, ask the groups to use the library's website and a suitable national library site.
Step 6
Swap the A3 sheets again and ask each group to spend 10 minutes furthering their research using subject-specific databases, knowledge portals, or other sources you have selected.
Step 7
Redistribute the A3 sheets back to the first group to write on them. Ask students to review the results and agree the next step in their research, e.g., which words and sites they should continue to use.
After the activity
You can follow up on each groups' work by suggesting ways in which they could build and use search strings and doing block searches with keywords/keywords found using the exploratory search method.


  • Prepare a short presentation about the exploratory search. Click here to view a video for inspiration. 
  • Decide which search sites, databases, etc. the activity should focus on. You might find guidance from your institution’s library regarding this choice. 



Use your browser’s native translation function to translate the links below from Danish or click here to access an online URL translation tool. You will need to copy and paste the website URL into the translation tool and select the language you want it translated to.

Structure and systematics in academic information retrieval – the further information search.
The first search is rarely the best – how to work the structure with your keywords and search structure.
Google banned (Digital Restrictions) – use of search resources other than Google where Google is banned.


Ulla Buch Nilson and Jette Hougesen from VIA Library and Helle Brink from Aalborg University Library, Denmark.


  • Educator prep: Moderate
  • Duration: > 5 mins

This activity is one of a series of activities from the STAK Project, focused on developing students' digital skills. 

Find out more

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Mindmap Your Notes


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Searching is a Journey of Discovery