Google Search Tips
The following is a combined list of top tips for taming Google that have been recommended by people who attended my recent Google workshops.
- Use the filetype: command or the file format option on the Advanced Search screen to limit your research to PowerPoint for presentations, spreadsheets for data and statistics or PDF for research papers and industry/government reports.
Note that filetype:ppt and filetype:xls will not pick up the newer .pptx and xlsx formats so you will need to incorporate both into your strategy, for example
filetype:ppt OR filetype:pptx
However, Google usually separates out the different filetypes rather than combining them and sorting by relevance so it is better to run separate searches for different filetypes.
- Use the minus sign immediately before a term to exclude pages that contain it. The minus sign can also be used with commands to exclude, for example, a specific site (
-site:nameofsite.com) or a file format (
-filetype:ppt) from your results.
- Include the site: command in your strategy or use the domain/site box on the advanced search screen to focus your search on particular types of site, for example
- Change the order in which you enter your search terms. This will change the order in which your results are displayed.
- Repeat important terms. As with changing the order of your search terms, this can sometimes significantly alter the order in which the results are displayed.
- Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/). Although there are serious limitations to Google Scholar and the advanced search options are unreliable it can be very useful in tracking down the details of a half remembered reference. One member of the workshop explained that students often fail to accurately note down articles mentioned in lecturers. The specialist databases do not always retrieve the references in these cases whereas Google Scholar often does.
- Google Scholar for citations. Although Google Scholar is not comprehensive and sometimes inaccurate not everyone can afford the more reliable but expensive databases.
Users have also reported that Google Scholar is often better for open access publications.
(Note: although it does not cover all subjects and has its own quality issues it is worth looking at Microsoft Academic Search at http://academic.research.microsoft.com/ as an additional resource).
- Use the additional search options in the menu above your results.
The options change depending on the type of search (general web search, images, news, books) but they are key to narrowing down your search.
- Try Google.com as well as Google.co.uk
Apart from presenting your search results in a different order and sometimes different content Google.com is where Google tries out new features. As well as seeing pages that may not be highly ranked in Google.co.uk you will get an idea of the future direction of Google search.
- Search settings
Search settings is hidden under the cog wheel which appears in the upper right hand area of your results page. In some browser versions it appears in the top right hand corner of the Google home page. The Advanced Search screen link is also hidden under the cog wheel.
Use the search settings to:
i) alter the level of the safe search
ii) switch on/off Google Instant. This is the feature that changes and displays results as you type in your search. Some people find it useful whilst others find it extremely irritating. A big disadvantage of it is that it only displays 10 results per page.
iii) increase the number of results per page from 10 to up to 100. Since you can no longer guarantee that you will find the most relevant page in the first 10 results this enables you to view more without having to click through to the 'next page'. Google Instant, which allows only 10 results per page, must be switched off.
iv) open results in a new browser window or tab. This allows you to view results while leaving your search page intact in a separate tab or window.
v) switch on/off or edit your search history. Search history is used by Google to customise your results and some people prefer to switch it off. It can, though, provide a useful record of the searches you have carried out and the pages that you have visited.
- Limit by date.
Use the date options to limit your results to the last day, week, month, year or within a custom date range. This tends to work best with blogs and news sources although Google is getting better at identifying dates generally. To see the date option click on ‘Search tools' in the menu above your search results, and then on the “Any time” option in the menu that then appears.
The essential tool for taming Google. Google automatically looks for variations of your terms and using double quote marks around terms or phrases does not always work. In addition Google no longer looks for all of your terms in a document. If you want Google to run your search exactly as you have typed it in, click on ‘Search tools' in the menu above your results, then click on the arrow next to ‘All results' and from the drop down menu select Verbatim.
- Google Art Project http://www.googleartproject.com/
This is a collaboration between Google and over 150 galleries from across the world. You can take a virtual tour of a gallery and zoom in on a painting to see the brushstrokes. You can view paintings and drawings by gallery or by artist. Warning: highly addictive!
- Numeric range.
Use this for anything to do with numbers - years, temperatures, weights, distances, prices etc. Use the boxes on the Advanced Search screen or just type in your two numbers separated by two full stops as part of your search. For example:
world oil demand forecasts 2015..2030
- Google Reading level
Google's ‘Reading level' can change the type of pages that you see. Run your search and from the menu above the results select ‘Search tools', ‘All results' and from the drop menu ‘Reading level'. Options for switching between basic, intermediate and advanced reading levels should then appear just above the results. Click on Advanced to see results biased towards research rather than shopping, for example.
Last updated August 5, 2013
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ Copyright © 2013 Karen Blakeman