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Google and Google Scholar: Search Tips

Ideas to improve your searching using advanced features of Google & Google Scholar.

Search Tips

These tips will work in Google and Google Scholar (and in many library databases)

  • Avoid typing in full sentences or questions, instead:
  • Use strong keywords: Pick out the most important words/concepts in your research question. Use keywords such as those experts and scholars would use. These are usually nouns.
  • Avoid terms that can be used in many settings (like effect, impact, develop)

Matt's Tips

Google Search Basics

1. Phrases
Use quotation marks around two or more words that form a phrase. This is especially useful when searching for a person or a title of an article.
Examples: "John Adams" or "Magnetic resonance imaging of the equine foot"
Caution: Using quotes can sometimes cause you to miss results. For example, "John Adams" will miss pages that refer to "John Quincy Adams."

2. Exact word (and not synonyms)
Google automatically searches your search terms and synonyms. If you do not want to search for synonyms, put your single word in quotes.
Example: to find automobiles but not cars, search "automobiles"

3. Exclude
Use a hyphen or minus sign (-) in front of words you want to exclude from your search.
Example: "alternative energy" -solar  will exclude solar from your search results.

4. OR
Google will automatically find all the terms you enter into the search box. If you want to include either one of several words, you can use OR (in all caps).
Example: puritans (dress OR costume) will find articles that contain dress or costumes.
puritans dress costume  will need to contain all 3 words.

5. Wildcard (*)
The * or wildcard, is a placeholder for any unknown term.
Example: Use it to complete a phrase where you've forgotten one or more words: "A penny * is a penny earned."  You can use as many * in a search phrase as you'd need. "Remember, remember the * of *.
Note: Google's use of the * is different than how it is used in library databases.

6. Site Search
Search for your terms in a particular site or in a particular domain.
Example: Rise site:imsa.edu will only find Rise on IMSA's website.
Global warming site:.gov will only find results on global warming from government websites.