Text: Level Up Your Google Game

Popular search engines like GoogleYahoo, and Bing enable you to find lots of information quickly and, when used cautiously, can be fabulous research tools. Because the information you find is not necessarily academic, credible, or pertinent to your topic, generic search engines are best used in the preliminary stages of the research process. As you use these search engines, make sure you are using them most effectively so you can speed up your search process and find the best information.

Google Search Tips

Practice these google search techniques to narrow down your search results.

Google Search Tools. Created using information from Google Support and Google Guide.
Search tool How to use it
”   “ Use quotes to search for exact phrases. This search tool looks for the words in the same order they appear, so be careful not to be too specific, or risk excluding helpful information. For example, “medicinal practices at Gettysburg” returns just one result.
Example: “The Battle of Gettysburg” or “Medicinal practices” Gettysburg
 – Use dash immediately before a word or site to excludes that from your search.
Example: cricket -insect or Civil War -Gettysburg or Civil War -site:wikipedia.org
 * Put an asterick in place of an unknown search term.
Example: “an * a day”
site: Search specific  websites or domains. This is helpful in academic research if you want to find articles only from .edu, .gov, or .org websites.
Examples: Gettysburg site:history.com or Gettysburg site:.mil 
related: Find websites that are similar to a web address you already know.
Example: related:genealogy.com
OR Use OR to search for information that may use a different word.
Example: medicine OR surgery in “Battle of Gettysburg”
filetype: Find specific types of files. Example: Gettysburg Address filetype:ppt
allintitle: Find pages that have the keywords in the title of the page. Example: allintitle: medicine gettysburg battle

Apply your newfound skills by solving Google’s “A Google a Day” research question.

Google Advanced Search

You can avoid having to memorize many of the search tools by simply using Google Advanced Search and typing in the specific information you seek. There you can sort for exact words, phrases, websites, filetype, and even usage rights.

Using Google Advanced Search

Google Scholar

A popular article database is Google Scholar. It looks like a regular Google search, and it aims to include the vast majority of scholarly resources available. While it has some limitations and is not as valuable as searching within library databases, it’s a useful tool if you want to cast a wide net. It’s also a large step above general Google searches for finding academic content. Google Scholar starts with a basic search blank. Because researchers are more likely to need the results of more specific searches, the advanced search link is accessed via a down-arrow in the search blank.

Screenshot of google scholar, showing the drop down option for the advanced search.

Here are a few things to consider when using Google Scholar:

  • Keep in mind that Google is not transparent about the journals or time ranges it indexes, and publishers occasionally request that Google Scholar not index their publications. Non-scholarly and/or non-peer reviewed material may also appear in Google Scholar, so it is best used in conjunction with other search tools.
  • Unless your Google Scholar account is already connected to your school library account (check with your library for setting that up), you will likely see that many articles will cost you $20 or $30 just to look at. Don’t pay for them! You probably have access to virtually all the published academic literature through your library resources. Write down the key information (authors’ names, title, journal title, volume, issue number, year, page numbers) and go find the article through your library website. If you don’t have immediate full-text access, you may be able to get it through interlibrary loan.
  • A neat Google Scholar feature is the “cited by” link. If you get one great hit on Google Scholar, you can quickly see a list of other papers that cited it.

Using Google Scholar

Watch this video to get a better idea of how to utilize Google Scholar for finding articles. While this video mentions setting up an account with La Trobe University, the same principles apply to other colleges and universities. Ask your librarian or check out Google Scholar Search Tips for more assistance.