50 tips for an efficient Google searching

worldtwodotzeroAbout a year ago in the article entitled “Me, you, them, Google and the first three search results” we had carefully examined some data set that were monitoring search activities through Google. The results had proved to be, at least for us, amazing: approximately 90% of the users select, consequently a search, what they occur on page one. What is even more significant is the fact that approximately 63% of the users, therefore two out of three, select one of the first three occurrences on the list. The feeling that has emerged, during the data analysis, is that the list of Google search results has a conclusive effect on our choices. The list decides what we should select and not the other way around.
A year later, fully aware of the increasing spread of the Internet, especially among young people, we have decided to draw up an advice list, neither long nor short, fifty tips for the cybernaut who needs to find something through the most popular search engine in the world: Google.
The advices are not following a sequence, they require some reflection from the readers’ part, that, just like in the front of a list of Google search results, should carefully read and decide which of the multiple suggestions make it his own.

  1. There is no need to be hasty when searching contents on the Internet; you have to be patient in order to read carefully what is being proposed.
  2. Do not be satisfied with the first results on the list; the probability that those are what you need among the countless alternatives present on the Internet is statistically very low.
  3. Never mistake the most popular results for what really interests you.
  4. Do not be deceived by irrelevant images or contents nor by the key “I’m Feeling Lucky”, you have no reason to feel lucky during an Internet searching, just lump it!
  5. Do not get distracted by the Google prompter while you are typing the search terms.
  6. Do always check out at the beginning of the list if Google has re-interpreted your search using other terms, in this case Google introduces the message “Showing results for … “ and in smaller font on the next line it is given the possibility of doing the original search with “Search instead for… “. In the following example we are searching news regarding our imaginary friend Henry Potter, Google arbitrarily decides to turn our search into that of the Wizard protagonist of so many books. By only selecting “Search instead for…” we can do our initial search.
  7. Do pay the proper attention to “Search instead for…” of Google, maybe you have mistyped the terms and now you are browsing an unimportant set of information.
  8. If you have found something does not mean that you have correctly typed your terms, other thousand people could have made the same mistake; do check the mono field above before examining in depth the list of results.
  9. The web contains billion bits of information, but that does not mean that among those, it is the one you are looking for, even if it is very likely, do not despair.
  10. Do also deepen the pages subsequent to the first one, you may find interesting contents even in the two hundredth position, or over. Google does not know your real occurrences.
  11. To find what you are actually looking for may take time.
  12. First identify the correct search terms, write them on a Word document, Notepad or on a sheet of paper.
  13. If you have doubts about the meaning of a term type the key word “define”; for instance: define sociology. You will immediately get the definition from the Google’s dictionary. It is important to know the meaning Google assigns to that specific term.
  14. Use the terms found in the Google’s definition described in the preceding point in order to form alternative searches.
  15. Online you may easily find the suggestion in which the articles are considered useless while Google searching, and therefore be omitted. This information is partially false because if you search “the theory of everything”, “theory of everything” and “theory everything” you will get very different results. Our suggestion is to do the search with and without the articles so as to check the various alternatives proposed.
  16. Google treats equally Upper and Lowercase letters; you may type all in lowercase (or as you please).
  17. Do not conjugate the verbs; there is no friend of yours on the other side of the screen but a software procedure.
  18. Use direct terms and simple sentences with immediate effect.
  19. Don’t put your cup of tea near your computer while you are doing a search, if the tea spills, you can say goodbye to both your computer and your search.
  20. The punctual search: If the search concerns something of very specific, for instance name and last name of a person or the title of a book, use quotation marks before and after the terms. This way the search is done in an ad hoc basis on those terms and in that particular order.
  21. Using quotation marks while searching is particularly useful in case of quotations, for instance “to be or not to be”.
  22. Repeat the same search applying small variations to the terms.
  23. Use only some terms among those initially hypothesized, for instance combinations of two terms out of four. A broader search can offer interesting alternatives.
  24. Now add further terms without exceeding, of course. Remember that a very selective search can alienate the expected result.
  25. When possible try searching both singular and plural.
  26. When possible try searching both masculine and feminine.
  27. Reverse the terms order even more than once.
  28. Identify potential synonyms and repeat the search by varying one of the terms; all of you know that many dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms are available online, for instance the Virgilio’s words service.
  29. Do the same search by adding at the end or at the beginning the PDF term. This way you could find a document in standard format, printable that may reveal, even partly, the topic you need.
  30. Do the same search adding at the end the term thesis; by doing so, you could find a thesis that depict, even if partly, the argument of interest to you.
  31. Do the same search adding at the end the term youtube or video or lesson or e-learning; you may find some video material related to what you seek.
  32. Do not forget to repeat the search on the website of your library. If you don’t have one or more libraries of reference, type the term library followed by the name of your city. You will find a website that allows the search inside the library’s catalogue, normally through a mono field such as Google. Remember the public libraries lend books free of charge and, more and more often, they offer online digital material.
  33. If you are still looking for the nearest library (or pub or bar or fish market), you may type the terms: “find the nearest library” or “where is the nearest library”. The terms: “find” and “where is” combined with the term “nearest” activate the locator automatisms of Google elaborating a result list with the nearest libraries.
  34. Analogously as in the previous paragraph, you may type “weather” and automatically you will get on the result list the weather in your city.
  35. Google also proposes a search via images, by simply going to Google images. The most immediate way to use this service is to drag the image, for instance a file in jpeg or png or tiff format, in the mono field. It is possible to look for a photo, a digital cover of a book, a logo, a drawing and so on…
  36. Google also has “a books catalogue”. Go to the address of Google Books and repeat your search. We remind you however that before exploring the magic world of Google books, you should first do the already mentioned search mode on the website of your library because there you will find free contents and the possibility to be helped personally by the librarian, an expert in the field.
  37. Google also provides a specific search tool for academic contents and that is the Google Scholar.
  38. Try to do your search by adding the term Wikipedia. Wikipedia provides a further advantage, in certain cases at the end of the page it brings out some alternatives to be browsed: related items, bibliographies, notes, links,… other ways to reach the information you need.
  39. If the search is particularly complex, before starting you should open a word document and type every sequence of the terms you have searched, this way you will have a history of your attempts.
  40. On the same word document you can specify the most important links found by you and create a small bibliography-webography to report on your search.
  41. If you found nothing, do not hesitate to go back to square one and call into question your list terms; create a completely new one, like in the Goose game, sometimes is necessary to start from the beginning again.
  42. If you don’t find anything and you are tired of being connected to the Internet, ask your parents or your older sister or, better, go right to the library. You don’t even imagine how many things can be found in the real world with the help of a librarian.
  43. You can widen your search by using the operator OR. Practically you can run two or more searches at the same time separating every group of terms with OR; like this you will get a convergent list that correspond to both results.For instance, sociology OR psychology provides all the occurrences that include at least one of the terms.
  44. You can refine your search by using the operator “- “, in this case towards subtractive, the search sociology-psychology finds all the occurrences that contain the term sociology and certainly not the term psychology. Pay attention, the second term must be adjacent to “- “ in order to allow the subtractive action on the list. You must not include spaces between minus and the term “psychology”.
  45. The term “* “ gives you the possibility to run a wider search, for instance anthropolog* allows you to find occurrences with the terms Anthropolog, Anthropology, Anthropologist, …
  46. If you are a university student repeat your search by adding the name of your athenaeum.
  47. If you are a university student repeat your search by adding the name of your specialisation.
  48. If you are a university student repeat your search by adding the name of your professor, you may find some files or other interesting quotations.
  49. If you are Internet “experts”, during the selection try also to take a look at permalink; the presence of a plain domain and meaningful terms in the url are positive symptoms. Do avoid selecting inscrutable url made only by letters and numbers. To be clear, the url are the addresses in green placed below the title.
  50. Needless to say that knowing a second language such as  French, Spanish or Chinese represents a huge value-added. The main European languages along with the world’s most important languages enlarge the number of alternatives, more databases, more documents, more books, more quotations and so on.

As a matter of fact, these rules go far beyond the Internet, regardless of the tools used, real or virtual, each study or close examination requires care, patience, sorting capacity and comparative ability and luck has nothing to do with it.

A final tip, do not slavishly copy everything you found. For two reasons: because it is important to understand what is all about and it is only fair to write by your own hand what you want to tell, because as already explained under the point no.20 and no.21 above, if your professor takes one of your sentences and puts it in quotations marks on the Internet and tracks it down through Google and finds that identical quote in the thesis or in the search of another person, you are in big trouble.



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