8 Google Search Tips for Students
By Marie Fincher
Google is the metro station to which you can take any line to answer any question you may have. The problem is that you need to know which line to take. Take the wrong one, by typing the wrong words or using the wrong commands, and you can end up in the wrong neighborhood, or even an entirely different country.
To navigate this system of tunnels and passageways, you need to have a map to the territory and know how to read it so that you can take the shortcuts and the quicker routes. The best way to build that, is to know the tricks and tips that make Google so much easier to use. Here we’re going to cover some of the best ones we’ve found to do just that.
Learn the commands
Google has a lot of special commands that you can use to specify your search. Here are some of the most useful ones for you to play around with...
If you know who wrote a certain article you’re looking for, then you can put that straight in using this tag. This can be incredibly useful if you’re looking for scientific articles written by certain academics, for example. Or if you want to read everything that one of your professors wrote, so you can write content that fits more closely with what conforms to their opinions.
Another useful command that puts the words that you know are in the title into the search. The advantage here is that if you know it’s definitely in the title, you can avoid google giving you back articles where the word is found only in the body of the text, which again makes it far easier to search the results.
This command tells you what websites link to that website. That might seem a bit obscure to begin with, but it can be really useful. For example, if you have an article that you’ve quoted and you want to find out who agrees or disagrees with it, then you can use the link command. Similarly, you can trace discussions related to specific pages in this way. That will quickly and effectively expand your knowledge about a specific idea.
This command, along with the site you’re considering will make sure you only search a specific site for the information you’re looking for. So, if you know there is an article about something on the New York Times website, but you can’t remember it exactly, you could type site: nytimes.com and then some of the keywords you do remember about the article. And hey, presto! You’ve got a far more limited list of possible articles for you to search through. You can also use this to look through a certain type of site. For example .edu, if you want to look only at university websites.
- Asterisk *
Also known as a wild card, this is very useful if you know most of what you’re looking for, but you don’t remember everything. So, you might remember the website and a chunk of the title. Then you can fill in * for what’s missing and Google will do the rest.
- Minus -
The minus symbol is another useful one to know. Put it in front of a word, or a website or author that you’re not interested in and it will exclude these from the search. So, if you’re trying to find out something about a website that is huge but you don’t want that specific website to be included in the search (as they generally publish biased information about themselves) then you type -site:nameofsitehere and you’ll be able to get search results that aren’t just that main website.
- Hyphens “”
Another very useful sign to use. Hyphens make it clear to Google that you’re looking for this exact meaning or specific text. The advantage of this is that Google does a lot of interpreting when you type in your search. “It will give you articles of semantically related searches as well. Sometimes that’s what you’re after, but sometimes you just want that exact text. For example, if you’re searching for the professional thesis writers you don’t want essay writers and translators. In that case, hyphens are useful,” explains Jodi Wright, Trust My Paper senior copy editor.
- Double dot ..
Lets you set a range. So, let’s say that you’re looking for the demographics of orange county from 1999 to 2004 then you could write: demographics orange county 1999..2004. This is a great way to get information over a range of time while excluding periods that you’re not actually interested in.
Combine and Conquer
Individually, these are some darned useful commands. Together, however, they can become truly powerful. You can find all the articles written by a certain academic in a series of years using the author and the double dot command. You can use the author and link command to get to grips with what a specific author has said in reply to an article that you suspect is controversial. You can even search for what an author has said about a certain topic away from the main website that he usually writes for.
The best way to learn how to use them correctly is to make sure you have a list like this close at hand. Either link to the Google special command page and try to use them often, or else print them out and have them lying next to your computer. You see, learning how to use commands like this does take a bit of practice as you learn what you can and can’t do. Once you’re there, however, the time you’ve invested will be recuperated in no time as you find exactly what you’re looking for in a fraction of the time your less Google savvy classmates do.