Thursday, August 2, 2012

Top 10 Power Searching with Google Tips...

I recently completed the 'Power Searching with Google' MOOC (massive open online course) and thought it would be useful for me to share some of the tips I picked up along the way... here goes...

1.  Image searching is far more useful than you might have realised
Searching for infographic CVs on Google
If you're looking for an example of a CV you'd just type 'CV example' into Google, right?  Well... what you might not have thought about doing was going to the images search and typing it there instead.  The reason this is great is it's a really quick way of doing a visual search for layout ideas... or diagrams... or visual explanations of concepts etc.  Brilliant for that!

2. Google search is not case sensitive
Y'know, I just didn't realise this... but it isn't.  If you search for 'NASA' or 'nasa', it won't matter - the results would be the same either way.

3.  But word order matters
Searching for 'green grass' and 'grass green' will produce two very different sets of results.  Think carefully about the order in which you enter search terms as this will affect your results.

4.  Using the site: operator can help narrow your results
If you're after results just from academic institutions then simply add to your search criteria (no space between site and the domain extension) - this can be a really great way of finding what other institutions are doing on particular subjects.  Equally, restricting it to will keep your results from UK domains etc.  Simple technique but very effective.

5. Using the filetype: operator can help you track down more than just pdf files
Did you know you could add in filetype:pdf and it would just find you pdf files?  Nor did I... but nor did I know that it could search for other file types which could be extremely useful.  For example, search for something with filetype:kml (kml are Google Earth files) and you'll be able to see your results in Google Maps - perfect for tracking down walks / routes to places even historical expeditions which have been mapped.

6. Search features can short cut you to answers quicker
Using the weather Search Feature in Google to
quickly track the fact that it's going to rain!
Want to find out the weather in Sheffield (it's rainy, by the way!)... just type in weather Sheffield and it'll come straight up.  There are a whole host of 'search features' which do things like this, from finding out the time in other cities to sunrise times in your holiday location to definitions, performing calculations, converting units, looking up health conditions and more.  There are tons of them which you may have noticed producing quicker results but not realised this was a feature... it is and it's excellent!

More search tools
7.  You have more search tools than you might realise
If you click on more search tools on the left hand side of a search window it'll drop down to reveal some more search goodies.  You can restrict items by the time they were published (which is great if you want to find out the latest news or blog posts on something or articles published within a particular period)... you can search for sites with images, for content at a particular reading level or even do a 'verbatim' search which will search for exactly the terms you want with no 'help' from Google.

8.  Google's translation functionality is superb
Yes, you can come up with some wonky translations but did you know you can search pages from other countries which have been translated?  It's in the more search tools section mentioned above so is straight forward to access.  Why would you do it?  Well, want to know what other countries are saying about the crisis in the Eurozone?  Want to know how an event was reported elsewhere to give additional context?  This is a terrific way to do just that.

9. Don't think like your query, think like the results you want to find
This sounds a bit mad, but actually makes sense.  If you're trying to find an answer to something you'd think you should type in the question but this won't necessarily get you what you're after - the search engine doesn't answer questions just finds results.  Instead think about what terms might appear on the pages you want and enter those as keywords instead.  Be aware that this might skew your results - so choose keywords with an awareness of their impact (i.e. searching for the place 'Londonderry' will bring up different results to searching for 'Derry' because of the political history attached to the name).  To include both terms in your results use the OR operator.

10.  Image searching is brilliant
Drag and drop an image into a Google search and
it'll find it on the web (if it exists there)
Yes, I know I've already mentioned this, but how many times have you come across images / diagrams where a student has referenced 'Google' as the source or (lazily!) said 'I don't know where I got it' (as if it just landed itself on their computer one day in an act of academic magic). If you save that image to your computer and then drag it into the images search bar - you can find other instances of it on the web and most likely track down the source.

There you have it - my top 10 'power searching with Google' tips (there were more than these and I bet I'll come back to this post and think 'why didn't I mention that?!').  If you've got a bit of time to squeeze in some new ideas, then explore Power Searching with Google.  I bet you'll get a few tips from that too!

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