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5 great Google search tips

The good news about Google search?

It searches something like 97 bazillion web sites. Whatever you’re looking for is in there somewhere.

The bad news about Google search?

It searches something like 97 bazillion web sites. Whatever you’re looking for is in there somewhere.

Using Google can be a powerful tool but you and your students often spend way too much time trying to find what you’re looking for. The good news is that Google provides a variety of built-in search strategies that can assist in your search. These strategies deliver quality results while saving you time.

Suggestion One: Use the Exact Phrase
The first strategy that all teachers and students should be using is the Exact Phrase option allowed by all major search tools. For example, you may have tried searching for Civil War resources by simply typing the word “civil” and the word “war” into a Google search box. On Google, this search returns more than 184,000,000 results. This is because Google will return results for every website that has the word “civil” and/or the word “war.” You can force Google and other search tools to be more specific by enclosing phrases like Civil War inside quotation marks such as:

“civil war”

This forces the search tool to look for web sites that contain that specific phrase. You can include multiple words inside the quotation marks and include more than one set of phrases in your search. You might try this:

“American civil war” “lesson plan” “middle school” “primary source”

This revised search returns far fewer results – all immediately useful.

(A secondary use for this search strategy? Copy and paste exact phrases into Google from student assignments to check for plagiarized work.)

Suggestion Two: Limiting Your Search Results
Here’s another shortcut. A simple search for “civil war” might include results for both American and British Civil Wars. To remove results about the British version, include the word British in your search but place a minus sign just before the word. This tells the search tool to “show me sites about the American Civil War but eliminate results containing the word ‘British’.” It would look like this in the search box:

“civil war” –british

Suggestion Three: Title Search
Another easy way to increase your chances of finding quality resources is to search only the titles of web sites rather than the text of sites. This strategy is much like a traditional card catalog library search. If a book is titled The American Civil War, you can be sure that the content within that book will be useful.

Do the same sort of search online by embedding the title qualifier into the search box along with your keywords.

For Google, the qualifier looks like this:

intitle:”civil war”

For Bing and Yahoo, the qualifier will a bit different:

title:”civil war”

Your results will include just those websites that have the phrase “civil war” in the title of the site.

Suggestion Four: File Type Search
There are times when you might be looking for a specific type of file such as Powerpoint or Word document. Maybe you’d like to find a PDF or you’re looking for interactive web sites that incorporate Flash software.. Google can do that. In your search box, use the following qualifier:

filetype:pdf “american civil war” -british

Be sure not to have any spaces between the filetype, the colon, and the file extension type. You can search for almost any file extension in this type of search. Some of the most common file types are:

  • 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)
  • Text (.txt, .text, other file extensions)

Suggestion Five: Reading Level Search
More and more teachers are looking for resources to either help struggling readers or provide enrichment for those above grade level. Google gives you the option of finding results sorted by reading level. (Don’t ask me how they do it or where the grade level breaks happen. Just know it works. Cause Google is magic.)

To sort by reading levels, do your initial search first. You’ll see your results as well as a few tools listed above  them. One of the options is “Search tools.” Clicking that will open up a few more options including “All results.”

google search1

That drop-down menu gives you even more options, including “Reading level”:

google search 2

Selecting “Reading level” will then take you back to your list of results but with the option of selecting one of three different reading levels – Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. Clicking the level you want deletes all of the other results.

google search 3

Last Tip
Remember that all of these search strategies can be combined together – creating the mother of all search strategies. By using words and punctuation that remove useless information, you can find exactly what you need and do it without wasting a lot of time.

And be sure to check out these links for tips to using other search engines:

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. These tips really helpful for the more exact results on Google for everyone, Nice post

    February 27, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. 5 great Google search tips | ESSDACK - iPads for Learning |
  2. 5 great Google search tips | History Tech | inspiring library tools 2 |

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