I spend quite a bit of time researching things for articles on this web site, and the tool I use most often is the Google search engine. Sometimes I write simple Google queries like this 4 search term example:
obama ballot challenge georgia
A simple query like this works well most of the time. The problem is usually not finding what I want, but in finding much more than I want. This article describes some advanced tools to help you both find and exclude results from Google more quickly and efficiently.
More than one Google – specialized searches
While many use a browser search box to access the standard Google web search, Google has several additional different specialized searches. For example, if you want published news stories, and not so much blogs, you can search Google News. (Note that Google News is time sensitive and if you want to search for older articles, be sure to click the Archives link on the left side.) For images, there is Google Images. For scholarly articles, there is Google Scholar (some of which is pay-access content). For books and magazines, Google Books has a wealth of information, that grows daily. There are also specialized searches for videos, maps, and shopping. You can look up the different kinds of Google on Google.
One of the big problems confronting me is that the Birthers have polluted search results. In 2007 you could have searched for “natural born citizen” and gotten historical and scholarly information on that topic. Today, you get a million birther web pages and comments. In a Google search, preceding a search term with a hyphen will remove results containing that term. Be sure not to put a space between the hyphen and the term. Here’s an example:
natural born citizen –obama
Getting exactly what you ask for
Google not only returns what you ask for, but things containing similar words. For example if you query “aristocratic” you will get pages with “aristocrat,” “aristocrats” and “aristocracy.” Sometimes Google will get downright obstinate, like when you enter “presidency washington” (without the quotes) and Google assumes you mean “president washington.” The solution is to put the search term between quotes.
Quotation marks are not only useful for single words, but also for phrases, insuring that you only get results with the requested exact phrase, for example:
“natural born citizen” –obama
Another neat way to limit results is to specify the filetype: term prefix. If you only want to search for PDF files, you could use:
“swensson v obama” filetype:pdf
If you are not exactly sure of the phrase, you can substitute the wild card character “*” for one or more words (but not for part of a world) as in the example:
“orly taitz * senate in california”
will give you “running for,” “is running for” and “has a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected to the.”
It’s important to note that even though you use quotation marks for exact results, Google will ignore most punctuation marks and some very common words, most notably “the.”
Not sure which word?
Google provides an “OR” operator (must be capitalized) to combine results for multiple terms, for example:
FOIA (passport OR visa) “stanley ann” (obama OR dunham OR soetoro)
Searching part of a page
You can limit the search, for example, to just the title of a page by prefixing the query with “allintitle: ” for example:
allintitle:”obama ballot challenge”
You can similarly use “allinurl:” to search for text in the page’s URL or “allintext:” for just the text.
Searching a single site
You can limit your searches to one web site if you know where something is located, with the “site:” search term prefix. Be sure not to add a space between the prefix and the term, for example:
travel pakistan 1981 site:nytimes.com
birth certificate photo site:factcheck.org
You don’t have to specify the entire domain name. For example, if you only wanted to search only Kenyan government websites, you could use a search like:
obama parliament site:go.ke
One interesting thing you can do with Google is to explore what links to things using the “link:” search term prefix. For example:
That gives you instances where the Free Republic links here. Note, however, that the “link:” operator only returns a sampling of links on the Internet, not everything.
Google Advanced Search page
On a Google search page, there is a little “gear” icon upper right that will take you to an advanced search page where you can do many of the things described in this article (plus a few more) by just filling in the blanks. On the Advanced Search page you can, for example, restrict results by language or reading level.
I hope you found this little tutorial useful.