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How to search Google effectively

Learn how to search Google effectively to find relevant material for your essays and dissertations.

Carley Deanus

on 7 July 2016

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Transcript of How to search Google effectively

How to search Google effectively
The Internet
Get the results YOU need!
You’re probably used to finding all the information you need on the internet, but when it comes to writing essays, you have to be careful about what material you decide to use, as the internet is not moderated, and anyone can write things online.

To ensure that you use reliable and peer-reviewed sources (ones which have been written and reviewed by other academics in the field), you will need to use Google Scholar or Google Books.
Typing words into the Google search bar creates what we call a “search string.” However, you will often find that typing in keywords like this will retrieve too many results, and it is difficult to not only sort through them, but to also find out what is relevant to your subject, and what isn’t.

To search Google more effectively, there are a number of key strategies you can use.

Firstly, choose an appropriate "operator."
Search Strings
If you want to search a specific phrase, such as product design, you need to use speech marks around it: “Product Design.”

This is because you want Google to find documents that contain only this exact phrase. If you don’t put speech marks around it, you will find that Google retrieves results that have the words product and design in them, but ones that are not necessarily about Product Design.
When searching for proper names and specific phrases – use quotation marks: “”
To search for something more specific, you might need to include a number of different search terms. To do this, you can use AND between each one. The capitalised use of the word AND here serves to join different, but related words together, for example: if you were to type in:

Women AND Nineteenth Century

Google will retrieve articles about both these subject terms. Another example of using AND would be, for example, if you were interested in search results that only talked about red cars. To avoid having to sift through records on blue cars, green cars and so on, you would use the following search string:

Red AND cars.
When searching for words with multiple meanings and contexts – use AND
Following these simple steps can help you find the most relevant results for your essays and dissertations using Google Scholar and Google Books.

Happy Searching!
Searching Online
What is Google Scholar?
What is Google Books?
Google Scholar is essentially the same as Google, but it only searches scholarly literature. Results are ranked based on the content of the document, where it was published, who it was written by and how often it has been cited in other scholarly literature.

Sometimes you will find full-text access to articles through Google Scholar – other times, you will find that articles are only available through academic journals. In this case, please refer back to the Study Zone pages on the intranet. If you see an “Athens login” button at any point, you can always type in your Athens details here to see if we have a current subscription to the journal article for which you are looking.

If you are a third year undergraduate student, postgraduate student or member of staff, we can look into ordering the journal/book in for you as an Inter-Library Loan.
Google Books searches all library catalogues across the world for books which have been digitised, and often offers you a preview, or full-text access (if the book is out of copyright or the publisher has given Google permission) of these books. If the book is in the public domain, you are also free to download a PDF copy. Google Books works in the same way as a web search – when Google finds a book with content that contains a match for your search terms, they’ll link to it in your search results.
What is an "operator"?
An operator is a symbol or word which is used in a specific way to help group your search terms together and ensure you get relevant results. Which operator you use depends on what exactly it is you are searching.

Sometimes, you might find that your search returns few or no results. In this instance, you might have more luck if you can think of alternative keywords – brainstorming your subject area is a good place to start. Can you think of:

•Other terms related to your topic?
•Synonyms (words with the same meaning)?
•Different word endings (for example singular and plural forms)?
•Different spellings (for example UK versus US spelling)?

To search for records that return one or more of your search terms, you can link them together using the OR operator. For example, cars are also known as automobiles, and so to catch as many relevant results as possible, you could search for:
Car OR automobile
By using OR, Google will search for articles that use either one, or all of your related terms.
When searching for words which have spelling variations and synonyms (related words) – using OR
Using the asterisk * (or truncation "operator," as it’s more technically known), will tell Google to search for all words that stem from the same root. In plain English, this means that searching femin* will look for articles that include the words feminism, feminist, femininity, feminine, etc. This is quite a useful tool to use if you don’t know exactly which term you want to search, as it broadens your results.
When searching for words with many possible endings - use *
Still stuck?
Visit the Study Zone between 9-5pm, Monday to Friday for help and advice.

Alternatively, send us an email: studyzone@rave.ac.uk
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