Encourage your students to search efficiently. Here are three ways to use a "site search" - that is, a limiting term one asks the browser to search specifically. This helps students to pay attention to the source of their information.
Search 1: by site
Search 2: by domain
this tells the brower to search within a particular domain.
Examples: <topic> site:.gov. <topic> site:.edu. <topic> site:.com.
Since a domain can have several parts to it, invite students to look at the first page of results, but encourage them to dig deeper. This allows searchers to discover those government sites that end in <.gov>, but have other parts to it, like state designation, or agency designation. By conducting a <.gov> search and sticking only to the first page, searchers generally find the major players: LOC, NARA, and other larger institutions. But...go to the next few pages and they will find those smaller agencies with useful and compelling information usually at a state or local level. Examples include: library.ca.gov or maine.gov. You can ask it to go directly to maine.gov but that would then become a site search. If you know that the items you want should be in maine.gov, go there first. But if you're not sure what's out there in the world, go big <.gov> and then check out those other pages - you'll be pleasantly surprised at the vast wealth of info available at more local levels.
It’s my favorite way to search when wanting interesting things to pop up.
Search 3: by keywords
this searches your topic AND primary sources. or your topic AND lib guides. This is just another way of writing an AND search.
Examples: <topic> primary sources. <topic>lib guides
Helping students with search centers more around getting rid of things you don’t want - it’s natural (and ok) to type in a question, but it’ll bring back fewer things that are relevant because you’ve added in so many more words that get searched. Keeping it simple, using the words you want to see on the search results page (and ultimately in the site you’re looking at), will bring you more happy pages than unhappy pages.
The search string includes no spaces between the word “site” and the colon and the next word: “Cold War” site:loc.gov. If you use the space, you’ll still get results, but your browser will think that you want it to search the term “site” along with the others so it could skew slightly your results.
One trick I found with the LOC is to always go down to the left site and fnd the link to “Available Online”. That help most. The other is to site search your topic using Cold War blogs site:loc.gov. The blogs have the best resources IMHO.
That’s true in the National Archives also.... heck, check out the blogs on any government agency - they are compelling, interesting, and often bring forth items that might not be accessible directly from the site.