The Internet is huge, and contains an ever growing amount of uncategorised,
unedited and uncensored content. A search engine like Google can help you find
relevant, good quality information.
Here are some tips to help you use Google properly. If you try them out for
yourself, and start to use them in your own searches, you should find that the
quality of your search results -and therefore your assignments- will improve.
1. Search Terms
The search terms you use, and the way you enter them, can make a difference.
It is always better to use more than one word, to try and eliminate irrelevant
Romans Britain typed straight into Google results in over 1.9 million hits.
"The romans in britain" (including the quotation marks) results in 44,000 hits,
which is a big improvement as it gets rid of a large amount of the useless items.
Some people seem to think the more results you get, the better the search.
This is incorrect.
It is better to have 3 highly relevant results than 3 million which are irrelevant.
A wildcard entry is a useful tool when using Google. A wildcard is a symbol
which represents elements of a word or phrase. The Google wildcard is *.
For example, if you use psychol* as a search term it will search for the words
psychology, psychologist, psychologists, psychological and so on.
You can also use the wildcard to replace a word.
For example three * mice will look for ‘three blind mice’, ‘three little mice’
and any other phrase beginning with ‘three’ and ending in ‘mice’.
This is useful if you want to refer to several similar words, or even if you’re
unsure of the spelling, but it can also result in millions of hits if you’re not
specific enough. Use carefully.
Boolean terms refer to the symbols or words you can use to tell Google how to
The three basic terms are: and, or, not.
When you type in ‘mars planet astronomy’, you are really typing in ‘mars OR
planet OR astronomy, as ‘or’ is the default term.
You can use + instead of ‘and’, and – instead of ‘not’.
So, you can be more specific. For example:
+real +Madrid +football –beckham
This searches for documents
with real AND madrid AND
football but NOT beckham
(if you’re interested in Real
Madrid, but not David
The ‘–beckham’ part of this search eliminates over 200,000 hits.
Sometimes when you’re searching for information, it’s hard to find the right
search word or phrase. If words aren’t working, why not try pictures?
Try typing your keywords into Google images:
Often, this will lead to you to sites you may not have found by searching text
It is useful to be able to narrow down
searches to location, for example the UK.
The easiest way to do this is to click on the
‘pages from the UK’ option.
You can also choose to search by location using one of Google’s ‘syntax’ terms,
in this case ‘site’:
Typing in site:.co.uk hairdressing.
There is no space
between the ‘site’
This will return results for hairdressing ONLY at sites that end with .co.uk
You could use this syntax for any country, as long as you know the correct
letter for the country (for example, .au for Australia, .fr for France, .jp for
Japan, and so on).
Syntax is the special ‘language’ that you can use to make Google work better
You can use ‘site’ (as in the last example) to choose a particular location. You
can also use it to choose a type of site, e.g. educational:
This will return results relating to psychology, but ONLY from sites with a
.ac.uk designation, in other words educational establishments.
You can be imaginative
with this and search
particular sites, or
types of sites:
.info and so on.
There are other terms you can use:
intitle searches for your search terms in the title
intext searches for your search terms in the text of the article
inurl searches in the site’s URL (web address)
cache searches in Google’s cache (memory), even if the original
website has been deleted
filetype searches for file extensions, e.g. jpg, pdf and so on.
7. Advanced Search
The advantages of the advanced search should be obvious from the screen. It
gives you many options which the simple search doesn’t give you.
Some are highlighted below:
Keywords or phrases Choose number of hits displayed
Choose language Choose file format Choose how new, Choose domain or location,
and where to search and can I use it?
8. Google Directory
Lets you explore hand-picked sites by
subject. Pick a subject, then a sub-topic
until you reach an area of interest.
You can also search the directory by
keyword, as you could with any other area
of the web.
9. Google Scholar
Google Scholar is an academic search service, providing the ability to search for
scholarly literature located from across the web.
Google Scholar gives you the same search options as Google itself, but searches
a more limited, academic database. You can use the same search techniques
and syntax to refine your search.
Please note that you may come across password protected content in Google
Scholar, and that you may be denied access to the final document, unless you
have an institutional user name and password.
It is worth exploring the Google site. There are some fantastic tools available,
and new ones are being added constantly.
Google offers blogging technology, maps, Google Earth, office tools, image
tools, email, calendar tools, book searches, alerts and much more.