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Advanced Google Searching: Tips & Techniques

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Using a laptop to enter a search

In our information rich society, a vast amount of information is published and disseminated online, so you may wish to run some general searches for information using an online search engine. 

This can be a very effective way to find material such as grey literature which is not published through commercial publishing platforms, or included in online research databases.

However, the quality of these sources will always be an important consideration.  Always evaluate the information you source via the search engines.  An online Evaluating Information Sources tutorial is available to help you.


You can use the same search techniques you use with the online databases for your internet searching, as in this Google search example. Note the use of phrase searching and truncation. Using these techniques will help improve your search results.

Screen capture of Google Search input for "environmental law" and crim*


Also take advantage of advanced search options offered by the search engines in order to focus your search.

Advanced Google Searching

For example Google's Advanced search has a number of options that can help improve searching. The most useful options are flagged below.

Google Advanced Search Screen

Region

  • Find pages published in a particular region.
  • Useful looking at impact of topics and research in different areas of the world
  • Select from the drop down menu

Site or domain

  • Search across a website (will only work for website which Google can crawl)
  • Search one site (like wikipedia.org ) or limit your results to a domain like .edu, .org or .gov
  • Just add your site/domain to the search box

Terms appearing

  • Search for terms in the whole page, page title or web address, or links to the page you're looking for.
  • Select an option from the drop down menu

File Type

  • Search for pages in the file format that you prefer.
  • Select an option from the drop down menu
  • Includes the following which can be useful for grey literature materials
  • Adobe Acrobat PDF
  • Mitrosoft Excel / Word/ Powerpoint

Tip

You can also use these options with their search operators within the usual search box rather than using the advanced search and drop down menus, e.g, intitle:climate change site:gov.uk filetype:pdf

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