Saturday, May 14, 2011

How to Search On Google--Advanced Tips

I don't know about you, but I would be lost without Google.  I truly can't imagine what it was like for parents to homeschool before Google and the World Wide Web.  And my son has grown up with an idea of Google as an omnipotent information source.  I think he was only five when, after asking me one of those questions that has been pondered for ages (like "which came first, the chicken or the egg?"), he responded to my answer that I didn't know with a sigh and a disgusted face and said, "Mom, just Google it."

That said, I've only recently realized how much I had been missing about how to use this powerful tool.  Here are a few of the features that I've only learned about lately:

  • Did you know you could use Google as a calculator? It serves as an advanced math calculator, in fact, since it can give you the answer to math equations with symbols that I've long ago forgotten what they stand for.  
  • Did you know that they have a special search engine, called Google Scholar, that is geared to searching through scholarly literature?  This search engine attempts to rank the responses to your quest the way an academic researcher would--that is, looking not only at the text of the article, but weighing factors such as the author, where it was published, and how many times it had been cited in other scholarly journals, before ordering the responses to your search request.
  • Did you know that if you are looking for something within a particular website, but it doesn't have its own internal search engine, you can make Google do a site-specific search?
  • Did you know you could use Google to give you conversions, like changing dollars into English pounds, or degrees Farenheit into degree Centigrade, or other metric conversions of distance and weight?
  • Did you know you could use Google as a dictionary?
Well, maybe you did, but I didn't.  But Google Education is here to the rescue!  They have recently developed a series of posters for teachers to post in the classroom to educate students about search engine terminology, symbols, and best practices.   You can download them here, and even if you don't print them out as posters, you can keep the documents on your computer when you need a quick reminder about how to search for, say, Martin Luther King Jr. quotes ONLY during the Kennedy Administration, or gathering information about twilight without venturing into vampire territory.


  1. One of my favorite search operators is "not" :-) I often apply it to myself, otherwise I find my own stuff instead of other people's stuff I would actually like to find!

    I also like to search by dates, when I need something either fresh or in a particular year.

    And something I find useful for design: image search by color.

    By the way, "digital natives" is a myth when it comes to search skills: kids and teens don't typically know the things you just listed.

  2. Can you do image search by color within Google, or do you use a different search engine for that?

    I certainly agree that kids and teens don't know this stuff. A lot of it is actually thinking skills--figuring out the best way to find the stuff you need without the stuff you don't want, like your "not" example--rather than just technical knowledge. And, of course, if we don't know it and use it ourselves, it is unlikely they are going to just pick it up.