January 30, 2013

5 Google Search Tips for Everyday Use

One of the most difficult things to do, besides rocket science which I hear is pretty difficult, is to craft a search that will find what you want without having to sift through a bazillion sites.  Students today have officially all converted to the school of "I'm going to ask Google exactly what I want to know and go from there" way of searching and that ensures that they will find every "wiki" sites ever created.  This post will offer up five ways that you can use Google to effectively find information and in turn teach your students how to be better "Googlers".

1.  Quotation Marks

The easiest way to find what you are looking for is to use the exact phrase search which is initiated with quotation marks.  If you are looking for Civil War and you search that phrase, you are going to get results for all pages that contain the word Civil and War.  Presently that search returned "about 401,000,000 results".  Obviously...we can do better.  Searching for "Civil War" instead returned "about 111,000,000 results".  Enough said.

2.  Limit Your Search

Another reason that most searches return so many results is because the search is too broad.  If you are looking for information about the American Civil War and not the British Civil War you could search "Civil War" -British and it would eliminate the word British from your search.  Another use would be if you wanted information about the war but not the battles you could search "Civil War" -battles and get more specific results.  You could even combine the first two tips and search for "Civil War" -"battle locations".

3.  Title Search

Another reason for the trillions of results when you search is because Google is searching both the title and the content of every web page known to man...yeah that's a lot of searching.  Let's narrow that down a bit.  By using the "intitle:" qualifier you will only receive results that contain your search terms in the page title.  Searching for Civil War content would look like this:  intitle:"Civil War".  It is the equivalent of searching for a book title in a library catalog versus keywords.  Every result that you get is certain to be on topic.

4.  File Type Search

Now that you are a search ace...let's find some specific files to meet your needs.  Let's say for example that you want to teach a lesson about the Civil War using a PowerPoint.  Why create one when there are so many already out there?  In order to find yourself a PowerPoint you can use the search qualifier "filetype:".  For example a search of "Civil War" filetype:ppt would return only the results that are PowerPoint files.  This is mind boggling!  Once you try it you will be hooked.  You can use the filetype: qualifier for lots of other files too (see below).  When using this search skill be sure that you do not include any spaces between fileype, the colon, and the file extension.

Adobe Flash (.swf)
Adobe Portable Document Format (.pdf)
Google Earth (.kml, .kmz)
GPS eXchange Format (.gpx)
HTML (.htm, .html, other file extensions)
Microsoft Excel (.xls, .xlsx)
Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx)
Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx)
OpenOffice presentation (.odp)
OpenOffice spreadsheet (.ods)
OpenOffice text (.odt)
Rich Text Format (.rtf, .wri)
SMART Notebook (.notebook)
Text (.txt, .text, other file extensions)

5.  Site Search

Your training is almost over...except for one final tip.  This last one will really narrow down your search results and get you on your way much quicker.  Without further adieu I present to you "site:".  It's a great way to find content that was created by an academic, government agency, etc.  If you want to find a primary source from the Civil War you could search "Civil War" "primary source" site:gov and you would only get government site results such as the Library of Congress.  Even better...if you only want results from the Library of Congress you could search "Civil War" "Primary Source" site:loc.gov and you would only see results from the Library of Congress.  If you are looking for PowerPoints created by other teachers you can search schools by using "site:k12.**.us" where the asterisks would be replaced by the state code.  For example if I want to search all Alabama schools about Martin Luther King I would search "Martin Luther King" site:k12.al.us and my results would only be from schools in Alabama.  Bonus:  If you don't know which state you want to search you can use an asterisk (known as a wildcard) to replace the country code.

Putting It All Together

Now that you have learned a few new tricks you should be able to find what you are looking for much more efficiently on the web.  Don't forget that you can include all of these qualifiers in the same search to find specific information.  Remember that we started with our search of civil war without quotes and Google returned over 400 million results.  Who has time for that?  Instead, let's search for "Civil War" "Primary Source" -British filetype:pdf site:gov and guess what that nets us...just over 8,700.  Big difference.

No comments: