Steve Ervin





iSEEK is an academic search engine geared to help users find reliable sources for things such as research projects, term papers, and anything that needs to have reputable citations. In many ways, iSEEK is similar to Google Books, Google Scholar, and SweetSearch. However, iSEEK has a set of features specific only to iSEEK which will be discussed further. iSEEK aims at “Empowering Individuals with the Knowledge to Act by Dynamically Targeting, Discovering, and Organizing Information” (http://bit.ly/S6jezO). iSEEK aims to make web search more intelligent by offering targeted discovery for information retrieval by leaving “searching” behind.

iSEEK is compromised of two search engines: iSEEK Education (http://education.iseek.com) and iSEEK Web (http://www.iseek.com/) . iSEEK Education is designed for teachers, educators, and students to help them find high quality relevant results on the web. This search engine compiles hundreds of authoritative resources from university, government, and established noncommercial providers. The results are safety guaranteed to protect children, ensure there are no viruses, and verifies results are safe and reputable. The authoritative results are gathered from thousands of trusted resources reviewed by leading educators for high quality and reliability. iSEEK Web is geared towards general users that are looking to use targeted discovery to perform searches.  Both of these search engines allow you to see information iSEEK gathered which will allow more targeted results and eliminate lots of information that may be irrelevant to you.

Specialized Search Strategy for Academic Search

When collecting information for academic purposes, you need to consider the source where you’re getting your information. You need to identify credible sources that you can cite in your bibliography. In order to identify credible sources, you can follow the framework listed below:

  •  Suitability
  • Scope
  • Intended audience?


  • Identity
  • Motivation
  • History
  • Reputation

Accuracy (or verifiability)

  • Are sources listed?
  • Credibility of sources
  • Connection to literature


  • Date of publication
  • Updated?


  • Support for what is writer
  • Location of the page

For more information regarding this framework, reference this lesson: http://bit.ly/11Y6Qae.

Furthermore, iSEEK Education has its own quality checklist that all of its results from iSEEK Education has gone through. You can also use this quality checklist for other documents or search engines to evaluate the credibility. Click here to check out iSEEK Education’s quality checklist.


How to use

Using iSEEK to search is very similar to using Google, Yahoo, or Bing. iSEEK not only supports using natural language such as [Who was the first president of the United States?] but also supports using keywords such as [first president “United States”]. Either way, it is designed to understand what you are asking and retrieves the relevant information. Let’s get started with learning how to use this tool.

Search Interface:

The homepage looks similar to most search engines with just a few exceptions. Above the query box, you get three choices. The first option is to search iSeek Web, followed by the option to use MySeek which we will discuss later.  The third option is to search iSEEK Education. Using iSEEK Education will prioritize authoritative websites followed by State Standards and, lastly, the General Web. After typing your search query (again it can be in natural language or keywords), you have one more option that is the same as using the search operator [site:] with Google. If you click the  to the left of the query box, you get a dialog box that looks like this:





Here you can enter a specific site that you would like to search. You can even specify more than one URL to search by clicking Add Target and entering the next URL. If you would rather not use the dialog box, you can also use the [site:] search operator.


iViews is an iSEEK specific feature that allows users to use Targeted Discovery as previously mentioned. iViews is a dynamically generated and interactive way to search. It helps users narrow down to personal interests or relevance to their search query. iViews can be topics, people, places, organizations, dates, grade level, and subjects that are extracted from your search results. Let’s see if we can figure out the size of the hotel industry using iSEEK Education. Using the search query [size of hotel industry], these are the results you will get before utilizing iView:

As you can see (click on the picture to enlarge), none of the search results on the first page are relevant. Using iViews, we can find relevant results that will answer our question by narrowing down the search results. Under each iView category, you can choose one selection to narrow your results. It sometimes takes a little playing around with to find the right iView combination(s). In many cases, the selection under each category that has the most links (which is listed to the right of the selection) will provide you with the answer you are looking for. However in this case, selecting the “Market Size” selection under Topic provides us with an answer to our question which makes sense since we are looking for the size of the industry. You can see the result below:

When using iSEEK Education, you may find that you see less results that will answer your question. However, you must remember that these sources were handpicked by the iSEEK team to be safe and filtered.

Tweaking iView:

Above the categories, you may have noticed three buttons. The   allows you to change whether you see the iView window horizontally above your search results or vertically beside you search results. The  allows you to show/hide categories from the iView. Lastly, the  allows you to reset your selected iViews and see all search results.

Additional Features:

Furthermore, beside each result there are three options.



The first allows you to select the result for the iSEEK team to examine to blacklist the site (specific to iSEEK Education searches). This is if you find a result that is not safe or appropriate. The envelope allows you to share that result with a friend via a link or email. The last option is a rating system iSEEK implemented. After viewing a result, you can choose to rate it allowing other users to view the average rating and know how reliable that source is.

iSEEK Web also has a specific feature that allows you to utilize the MySEEK feature previously mentioned. However, you must be logged in to iSEEK to use this feature. When you click the  next to a result, it stores it into your MySEEK. This allows you to search your own favorite links that you have already deemed reliable from the homepage on iSEEK by searching your MySEEK rather than iSEEK Web or iSEEK Education.

Comparison with Google Web search

There are both strengths and weaknesses when it comes to using iSEEK verses the traditional Google Web Search, because they have a different search process and a different set of organic results that are displayed.


First, iSEEK allows you to narrow down your search results without having to think of your own keywords to narrow your search. When you search for something, the most common topics, people, places, etc. are listed in iView that allow you to see relationships among these iView categories. Seeing these new relationships might help you discover new facts you might not have known which may or may not be directly related to your search. Furthermore, iSEEK offers a bookmarking option via MySEEK. Google lacks these features and most likely will not help you discover keywords that can help you narrow your search unless there is a list of related searches. Another advantage is that iSEEK offers a smaller number of results that are guaranteed to be safe and reliable. iSEEK has already filtered out untrustworthy sites especially when using iSEEK Education. With iSEEK Education, you know the results you are getting have been verified to be safe and filtered.


Although there are some advantages to using iSEEK, there are also a few disadvantages. The first disadvantage is that iView only allows you to select one topic within each iView category. For example, underneath Topic you can’t select both Hotel Industry and Tourism Industry. You can only select one. This is something that iSEEK could definitely improve on since many links you would think could classify under more than one selection. Furthermore, it appears that the more specific your search query gets with iSEEK, the less relevant your results get. With Google, the more keywords you use the more relevant results get. As mentioned previously, iSEEK has a more limited number of results which can be an advantage in some cases. However, it can also be a disadvantage if iSEEK hasn’t discovered a good reliable source and added it to their database. Google is sure to have that source so you may not always be getting the best sources.


iSEEK and Google both have some similar features. First, iSEEK has a similar way of defining words for users. When searching only a word, the first result will be the definition of the word in a form similar to Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Furthermore, iSEEK also allows you to use a number of common search operators that also work with Google including:

  • search query”
  • -query
  • or
  • and
  • site:
  • intitle:
  • inurl:

How to get the most out of it

In order to get the most out of iSEEK, you should create an account and log in every time you use iSEEK Web and iSEEK Education. It’s an extremely simple process that takes less than a minute. Three reasons for this – to access your MySEEK results, to view your recent queries, and utilize the portal homepage.

As previously mentioned when you log in, you can use MySEEK to favorite links. You can either search these links or view them on your homepage.







When you’re logged in, you can also view your previous search queries in the last iView category called Recent Queries.








Lastly by logging in, you can create a portal homepage that has your MySEEK favorites and customized portals like CNN News, Weather, New York Times, ESPN Sports, and many more. This would make a great homepage that would allow you to search and see what is happening in the world.


When searching for information, you have multiple choices from Google, Yahoo, Bing, to the academic search engine iSEEK. But when should you choose iSEEK and specifically when should you choose iSEEK Web and iSEEK Education? First, iSEEK Web should be chosen when you are looking for general information. The targeted discovery allows you to narrow your search based on your original query using iView. For example, you may be looking for movie reviews for the new James Bond movie. iSEEK Web would do a great job locating these by selecting the iView topic “movie reviews” and selecting the iView person “James Bond”. You should use iSEEK Education when you also have a rather general search, you want a credible safe secure source, and want to narrow your results down by topic, theme, person, place, or date. Sometimes, it takes longer than usual to find what you are looking for on iSEEK Education so do not use this resource when you are trying to do a quick search. Google would be a better resource under those circumstances. Lastly, both iSEEK Web and iSEEK Education work best with general non-specific search queries. After the initial search, it is better to narrow your results down using iView rather than using additional keywords and search operators.


About the Author

Steve Ervin is currently a senior working towards a Bachelor of Business Administration with a Marketing concentration at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. After his anticipated graduation (Winter 2013), he will be relocating to Seattle, Washington, to begin his career with Microsoft on the Windows team. Throughout his life, Steve has always been a tech enthusiast trying out new tech products and online services. In his spare time, he also enjoys snowmobiling, skiing, hunting, poker, and keeping up with current events in the news.


To Google or not to Google? Copyright © 2013 by Steve Ervin. All Rights Reserved.