Make your life easier: Google search tips

Magnified (8/365), by jakebouma on Flickr

We all search online every day. Like many routine activities, we don’t really think about how we do it, it just sort of happens.

We also generally don’t seek out new and better ways to do routine things like searching online (unless you’re a librarian, and that’s part of your job). :)

Just because we don’t look for new ways to do things, doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. There are tons of things you can do with Google searches. Here are three that I use often:

1. Site-specific searches

You can limit your search to a specific website or a specific domain (e.g. edu or .gov) by using the site: operator in your search. Here are a couple of examples of how this could be useful:

Using the site:.edu operator in your search means that you will only get results from websites that end in .edu (US universities). This can be a useful way to do some quick quality control in your search.

You would get different results with this search. Using site:.gov means that you would only get results from websites that end in .gov, which are government sites.

You can also use this to search specific sites. For example, I often use this function to search the Gazette-Times without going to their site, by using site:gazettetimes.com in my search.

This brings us to…

2. Using options to limit and sort your results

Clicking on the Show Options button lets you limit and sort your results by date. So if I’m looking for the most recent mentions of the library in the GT, I can do the search I did above, click on Show Options, and then choose to show results from the last year and sorted by date, not relevance. (See image at left.)

3. Using the minus sign (-) to exclude words you don’t want from a search

This I don’t use quite as often, but it sure is handy when I need it. Here’s an example – I want tourist information about Vancouver BC, not Vancouver WA. So to eliminate all the results about Vancouver WA, I do this:

Using the minus sign ensures that none of the results of the search will have the word “washington” in them.

And more!

You can get word definitions, do calculations, unit conversions, and lots more. There are way more search tricks out there than we have room to talk about here – these are just some of the most basic and often-used ones. If you want more, try this article on Lifehacker or this one on The Geek Stuff.

Posted by Lisa, a second floor librarian

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