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Advanced Google Search

Finding Web Sources

Sometimes when you're completing an assignment, you'll be required to find articles and information from a credible website.

When you're searching through Google, you're looking through a vast amount of the web, so it'll help you greatly to narrow down your searching by using some of Google's advanced search tools. Below are some helpful search methods for doing some powerful Google searching. 

Phrase Searching

Just as in a traditional library database, you can use quotation marks to search for a particular phrase in Google. So searching for [cats and dogs] searches for those words and will return any resource that mentions "cats" or "dogs" or "cats and dogs." Instead when you search for the phrase ["cats and dogs"], you will only return resources that include the exact phrase "cats and dogs." When executing this search, notice the difference in the number of results between the two searches: 

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Neither search yields a manageable number of results, but notice that [cats and dogs] yields 2.5 billion results while ["cats and dogs"] yields 62 million. The difference is significant. 

An example where this would be particularly useful is in searching for a country like the United States. You don't want results that mention just the word "united," and you don't want results that only mention the word "states." You instead will want to search for ["United States"].

[-] Searches

If you're looking for something in particular, you might want to think about the different meanings of the words that you're searching.

For example, if you're searching for the speed of jaguars, you might want to search [jaguar speed -car]. This will result in the speed of the animal, the jaguar, and not provide any search results for the speed of the car brand Jaguar.

:site Limiter

The :site limiter is incredibly helpful if you're looking for a particular type of source for your research. Sometimes, it might be helpful to get an understanding of the US government's coverage of a topic or you might like to see just what the New York Times is saying about something. To make this easier, you can use the :site limiter.

For example, if you're searching for information on Hurricane Sandy, you can retrieve government information using the site:.gov limiter. Your search would then look like ["Hurricane Sandy" site:.gov]. Without the :site limiter, your top search results will be Wikipedia and cnn.com.

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However, should you use the :site limiter, you receive top results from the National Weather Service, NASA, and the National Hurricane Center.

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Another great way to use the :site limiter is to receive results about other countries from within that country. When you search for [Ireland] within the United States, you will only receive information from within the US about Ireland. However, if you'd like to get more information about Ireland from Irish websites, you can use the domain ending .ie to learn more. So, when you complete the search [Ireland site:.ie], you will only see what Irish websites have to say about themselves.

If you're not sure what the domain ending will be for a country, you can simply search for the country and the word domain.


An additional use of the :site limiter would be if you're interested in looking at a particular website's coverage of a topic. For example, if you'd like to look at the New York Times' coverage of the Black Live Matter movement, you can search ["Black Lives Matter" site:nytimes.com]:

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Using [OR] or the Pipe [|]

Searching with the Boolean operator OR is a powerful tool in library databases, and it is also helpful in searching through Google. If you're searching for information on something in particular, but it pertains to more than one thing, you can use the [OR] operator or the pipe to specialize your search.

For example, if you're researching capitalism and you would like to know more about the ultra-rich, you can use the OR operator to research the individuals you're most interested in. Say you're interested in learning about Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, but you're not interested in anyone else, you can use the [OR] operator. If you're interested in either's net worth, you can conduct the following search: ["net worth" Bezos OR Musk]. This will limit your results to just these two individuals rather than all of the ultra-rich.

The pipe [|] and [OR] are interchangeable, so if you prefer you can conduct the above search as ["net worth" Bezos | Musk] and receive the same search results.

[#..#] Searching for a Range

A really interesting way to limit your search is using the #..# limiter, which will allow you to search within a range of numbers. For example, if you're researching Saudi Arabia, but you're only interested in the years 2008 to 2010, you can use the #..# limiter to select those dates alone. Your search with then look like ["saudia arabia" 2008..2010]. All of your search results will be guaranteed to mention the phrase "Saudi Arabia" and be from the years 2008, 2009, or 2010.

As a note, this works for shopping as well. If you want to buy a cheap camera, you can search [camera $25..$50]. All results will be sites that include cameras priced between $25 and $50.

Putting it All Together

There's a lot of information here, but if you have taken the time to brainstorm your topic and know what you'd like to see from your sources, you will be able to do some very powerful Google searching.

For example, if you chose to explore the effect that the Black Lives Matter movement has had on Confederacy monuments and the Confederate flag, your search might look like:

["confederate flag" OR "confederate monument" 2020..2020 site:.gov]

To digest this, this means that you are searching for either the phrase "confederate flag" or "confederate monument" during the year 2020 on a US government website. This yields the following results:

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The first result is information on the Department of Defense's ban of open display of the confederate flags; the second and third results are bills from Congress pertaining to the removal of Confederate monuments; and so on.

If you're only interested in Confederate emblems in Mississippi, you could instead search for just the domain ms.gov rather than all US government webpages:

["confederate flag" OR "confederate monument" 2020..2020 site:ms.gov]

Using these tools can be exceptionally powerful, and there are many more than are listed here, so make sure to explore them when you have the chance to be an even more expert searcher. Having trouble? Email us at research@bridgewater.edu and we will help you navigate Advanced Google searching.