As a High School or College student, knowing how to search Google (Deer, 2013, September 16) is an effective skill that’ll make doing research papers very easy. So it’s quite surprising to learn that many actually do not know how to use Google effectively.
Fewer than 25% of student in a study conducted by the Illinois Wesleyan University (Kolowich, 2011, August 22) could perform a reasonably well-executed search. On a fundamental level, it appears that many students just don’t understand how to best find the information they seek using Google.
Well, this tutorial guide will help you to do the one thing that many students fail to do: narrow their search using specific search terms (Catone, 2011, November 24) on Google, resulting in a more concise search.
Google Search Commands and Boolean Operators – Refining your Search by filtering
The best way to Google is to use search terms called commands and Boolean Operators. These are special symbols or words built into Google Search that allow you to get far more specific results. Once you know exactly what you are searching for, these commands and operators will make the job way easier. This video provides you with some insight on the use of commands and Boolean Operators.
The main commands that are most useful for doing research are:
- site: – makes it possible along with Boolean Operators to search a website more effectively for the terms you need.
- filetype: – makes it possible along with Boolean Operators to search for a specific filetype e.g. *.doc. *.pdf
- define: – returns the definition for a word
- cache: – typed before an old url to tell Google to search for a cached version of the page so that you can still view it
- inurl: – to limit the search results to only those with the terms actually in the URL Name.
- intext: – searches for the terms inside the body of text.
- intitle: – looks for the search terms in the title of the article or page
- author: – command used on Google scholar to look for publications
The Boolean Operators you’ll need most often when doing academic research are as follows:
: – tells Google to look for this term e.g. define:roundabout
~ – tells Google to search using words that are synonyms of the word used e.g. ~simple
“” – tells Google to search for those words inside of the double quotes e.g. “cat in a hat”
– – tells Google to exclude this term from search e.g. jaguar –car –auto
.. – tells Google to search within a range of numbers e.g. 2000..2008
* – wildcard symbol tells Google to replace with the appropriate terms e.g. “a * saved is a * earned”
So on to the use of the commands, specifically the filetype and site commands
Google Search – Using the filetype command
In the image below, an example is shown as to how to use the fileype command:
Here is a list of common filetypes:
- .ppt – Microsoft powerpoint
- .pdf – Portable document file
- .doc – Microsoft Word documents
- .txt – text
- .xls – Microsoft Excel documents
Then you have the special file extensions for images:
- .jpeg – Joint Photographic Experts Group
- .tiff – Tagged Image File Format
- .gif – Graphics Interchange Format
- .bmp – Windows bitmap
- .png – Portable Network Graphics
Don’t forget video formats as well:
- .webm – WebM
- .mkv – Matroska
- .flv – Flash Video (FLV)
- .flv – F4V
- .vob – Vob
- .ogv, .ogg – Ogg Video
- .drc – Dirac
- .gif – GIF
- .mng – Multiple-image Network Graphics
- .avi – AVI
- .mov, .qt – QuickTime File Format
- .wmv – Windows Media Video
- .yuv – Raw video format
- .rm – RealMedia (RM)
- .rmvb – RealMedia Variable Bitrate (RMVB)
- .asf – Advanced Systems Format (ASF)
- .amv – AMV video format
- .mp4, .m4p .m4v – MPEG-4 Part 14 (MP4)
- .mpg, .mp2, .mpeg, .mpe, .mpv – MPEG-1
- .mpg, .mpeg, .m2v – MPEG-2 – Video
- .m4v – M4V
- .svi – SVI
- .3gp – 3GPP
- .3g2 – 3GPP2
- .mxf – Material Exchange Format (MXF)
- .roq – ROQ
- .nsv – Nullsoft Streaming Video (NSV)
So how do you search within a website? This next section will explore the use of the site command.
Google Search – Using the site command
Here is an example of using the site command.
This command is especially useful along with the filetype:, inurl:, intext: and intitle: to locate specific files and phrases hosted on a website.
Google Scholar – Use of the Author Command to search for Scholarly publications
Here is an example of how to use the author: command on Google Scholar, which is built into Google Search.
Please note Wikipedia is NOT a scholarly publication; you’ll get severely marked down if you use Wikipedia as a source. Instead, use the references at the bottom of the Wikipedia article as your references but not the Wikipedia article itself.
The same is true of physical books in the library; search the bibliography for references used by the book itself or use the book as your reference if the book is that concise. Always remember to check the referencing style, be it APA (Angeli, Wagner, Lawrick, Moore, Anderson, Soderlund, & Brizee, 2010, May 5) or MLA (Russell, 2016, 2 August).
Google Search: Definitions and other Tricks
Having Google is a handy toolbox of tricks. Check out the use of the define command, which is helpful to define terms as well as the calculator and converter built into Google.
This handy video also reveals some more modern tips and tricks that Google is now capable of doing.
There are also other operators used in Google Search; pound symbol, plus, dollar, @ and # also work pretty much how you’d expect them to. This can be very useful if you are looking for a company’s Twitter handle that isn’t based exactly on the name of the company.
As for the dollar sign, it helps clarify that you’re searching for the price of something; the plus sign can help you find information on blood types or Google+ users.
So dear College or High school student, this article should help you find what you are looking for more clearly and concisely.
- Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General APA Guidelines. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/
- Kolowich , S. (2011, August 22). What Students Don’t Know. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/08/22/erial_study_of_student_research_habits_at_illinois_university_libraries_reveals_alarmingly_poor_information_literacy_and_skills
- Catone, J. (2011, November 24). How to Use Google Search More Effectively [INFOGRAPHIC]. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/11/24/Google-search-infographic/
- Russell, T. (2016, 2 August). MLA Formatting and Style Guide. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/
- Deer, L. (2013, September 16). How to effectively search using Google while Researching your articles. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-to-effectively-search-using-google.html