In today’s world, it’s impossible to ignore Google Search as a legitimate tool for research. Most of us begin any simple quest for knowledge with a Google search. So it makes sense that more serious searches might start there, too. But is Google OK for formal research? Here are five essential tips to get the most out of your research with Google.
1. Use quotation marks to find exact wording.
Normally, Google will take a look at the set of words you type in, then try to find matches based on those words — not necessarily in the order you type them. Sometimes this means that Google might separate the words you’ve entered or even find matches for similar words. But you can also tell Google not to do this and instead look only for the words you entered in the exact order you entered them. To restrict your search to exact wording, surround the word or phrase in quotation marks.
2. Use “OR” to get options.
By typing “OR” (in capital letters) between search terms, you’re telling Google to look for matches to either term.
3. Use a hyphen (or minus symbol) to remove options.
To narrow your results, you can omit certain words and sites from your results by adding a “–” symbol in front of the word (or words) you don’t want your search results to include.
4. Use “site:” to limit your search to within one website.
By using the word “site:” (followed by a colon), then typing a website’s address, you can limit your search to results from only that website or source. This tip is helpful when you’re looking for a page on a website that doesn’t have its own search function (or when a website’s search function doesn’t work as well as Google).
5. Use “site:” and a country code to explore sources from a particular place.
This is a classic Alan November example, which he explains here in more detail (be sure to check out his site in the links below). You might already know that Google’s search algorithm populates users’ results based on their geographic location. But for some searches, it could be important to break out of your bubble and consider information from other locations or countries.