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Internet Sources for Research Help Guide: Using Google Effectively

Introduction

Google can be a good resource for research, if it is used effectively.

There are specific techniques that you can use to be an effective Google searcher. Your job is to decide which Google database you should use in order to find the types of materials you need, as well as to create searches, or queries, that provide pertinent results.

On the left are the three main Google collections that are useful for doing scholarly research: "regular" Google, Google Books and Google Scholar. On the right are tips for search techniques that will help target your search in such a way that your search results should pertain to the subject you are researching, as well as to the type of material you need.

Google

This is the "regular" Google that we all use.

Google Web Search

Google Books

This is the search engine that allows you to look through Google's huge collection of digitized full-text books.

Google Book Search

Google Scholar

Google Scholar collects and gives you access to a huge number of scholarly works, including full-text articles and books.

Google Scholar Search

Advanced Search

The Google Advanced Search page gives you the capability to create effective and efficient searches without having to use the Google short cuts.

With this search page, you can limit your search by language, file type (.jpg, .pdf, etc) and date range, as well as searching for similar pages, or websites from a particular geographical region.

Google has a help page for Advanced Search

Quick Search Tips

Use Boolean search terms.
Boolean terms refer to: AND, OR, NOT

These words tell a database how to do the search. "And" combines search terms; "OR" searches for either one search term or another; "NOT" ignores a particular word. (To see a visual representation of Boolean words, go here.)

AND: Google uses an implied "and" between search terms. For example, when you search for maryland constitution what Google does is look for maryland and constitution.

OR: Google will only recognize OR when it is in capital letters. maryland OR virginia

NOT: Google uses the minus sign to exclude terms. maryland -virginia

Restrict the Domain.
You can direct Google to look for particularly types of websites, such as government, military, non-profit or education. This is done by indicating what type of site you want, using the "site:" command such as:

shays' rebellion site:.edu

Use Quotes.
To find words in a web page or document in the exact same order, put quotes around them:

"Song of Solomon"

Exclude non-necessary words.
Use only those keywords that describe your topic:

How did Frederick Douglass affect the Civil War? should be Frederick Douglass Civil War or "Frederick Douglass" "Civil War"

Search synonyms.
You can search for the synonyms of words by putting a tilde in front of the search term:

~love would search for "marriage," "romantic," "romance," as well as "love."

Search singular and plural.
Google does not automatically search for the plural form of words. To makes sure it does you have to use the Boolean OR:

sculpture OR sculptures

Searching for common words.
Google ignores common words such as "how," "this," "where," "a." To make sure that Google does a search for a word like this use the + symbol before the word:

+who +are +you

Use the "fill in the blank" feature.:
Google can still look for something even if you can't remember the full name, or don't know a specific date, etc:

roe v * would search for court cases that began with "roe."

 

Google also provides information on how to do searches:

Basic Search Help

Advanced Tips