The tide is turning, and using Google for research is no longer taboo. Indeed, most instructors will encourage you to discover the amazing resources available on the web. The difficulty is in narrowing down the search results.
On this page we provide some tips for making your searches more effective. Be sure also to watch our tutorial on Google Scholar (video above) to find quality academic articles and books.
You’ll want your search terms to be as detailed as possible. It’s better to search for general anxiety disorder than just anxiety. The order of search terms matters too. Try place your most important terms first.
At the same time, you can always refine your results, so don’t be afraid to start with just a few key words and see what you find.
Specify the Type of Source
When you’re doing a search, be sure to use Google’s tabs to refine your search:
As you can see, you can search for images, news, maps, and more. If you click on Tools you can also display the toolbar:
Play around with the different options to see what’s available.
If you click on Settings you will be able to set some parameters to your use of Google. You can adjust your preferred languages, you can clean up your search history, and you can do an advanced search.
Use Quotation Marks
To search for a specific phrase, place quotation marks around it.
To search just the titles of websites, use the tag intitle: before your key word(s).
If you want to search URLs instead, place inurl: before your key word(s).
You can also search just the text by inserting intext: before your key word(s).
Search File Types
One cool feature of Google is the fact that you can specify what file type you’re looking for. Here are some examples:
filetype:ppt (for PowerPoint)
filetype:pdf (for PDF documents)
filetype:xls (for Excel spreadsheets)
filetype:doc (for Word documents)
Find Older Versions
If a website has changed, or if you’re just curious about previous versions, type in cache: followed by the URL. Check out also the Web Archive to go back in time.
Find Similar Sources
Found a website you liked? Use the tag related: followed by the URL to find similar websites.
Find Linked Pages
If you want to see what other sites linked to a website or page, type in link: followed by the URL. If you have your own website this is a fun way to see who’s sharing your site.
You can use Google as a dictionary by adding define: to your search.
Search a Specific Website
If you want to restrict your search to a specific website or page, write site: followed by the URL.
Alternatively, you can press Control + F to bring up a search box for the page you’re looking at.
Use an Asterisk
If you’ve forgotten some part of a phrase, use asterisks to indicate the missing words:
Search: Ne * * Pas
Find: Ne Me Quitte Pas (song lyric)
Try a Reverse Image Search
You can find where else an image has been used by right clicking on the image and selecting “search google for image.” You can even upload your own image (drag and drop it into Google) and Google will do its best to identify the image and find related pictures.
Search Social Media
Insert @ before a word to search social media. Add # to a word to search for hashtags.
Search a Range
Looking for a range of numbers or dates? Place two period between the numbers to indicate a range:
You can specify an alternative search term by inserting OR. Note that you usually don’t need to add AND.
Eliminate Search Terms
If you want Google to ignore a particular search term, place a hyphen (a minus sign) before it.
E.g., if your main search term is mongoose, you can add -cobra to eliminate a third of the results.
Search Old Newspapers
Google provides an excellent depository of old newspapers for you to search.
Have Some Fun
Finally, if you want to have some fun, Google has created all sort of in-jokes or Easter eggs. For just one example, type in “do a barrel roll” and see what happens. There are many more funny search terms for you to discover.
Using Google is increasingly an art, so try out the different tips on this page. They will help you find exactly what you’re looking for.