Advanced Search Queries for Students

 
 

Thinking ProcessSearch is simple, but getting the best results for your search query often isn’t. There are lots of factors that can throw off the algorithms of most search engines, so understanding special modifiers to use in your search for specific items will allow you to perform better research, much more quickly. Check out these advanced search queries to use for your next research paper and marvel at the difference they make.

Getting Refined Results

Search engine algorithms are created to understand specific phrasing, so thinking about this phrasing can drastically modify the results you receive. For example, typing in ’1066 AD’ will net you much different results than if you searched specifically for ‘Battle of Hastings’. The more descriptive you are with your specific search, the more likely you are to find the exact information for which you are searching.

For finding specific strings of words, the quotation marks can be used to encase the phrase. For example, if I wanted to find specifically the phrase, “The Death Mask of Tutankhamen”, then using the quotations will only return phrases that include these words exactly as they appear, including the modifier words ‘the’ and ‘of’. These words are usually left out of search engine results, but the quotation makes sure they are included.

Advanced Operators For Search

Manipulating searches for your benefit is a skill you’ll need to learn. These modifiers will allow you to search for specialized information more quickly. It is important to note that there can be no space between the modifier and the actual search query, otherwise it will not work.

related: – Attaching related: before your query will return pages that are related to the page you want. For example, the query [related:www.reddit.com] will return results that are similar to the site, Reddit.

define: – If you need a quick definition, instead of browsing to a dictionary website, simply search for the word you want with the modifier define: in front of it. [define:facetious] will return the definition of the word as gathered from several sites.

site: – Including this before your search query will only search for the term within the limits of the domain you have specified. For example, [chromium site:www.wikipedia.org] will only search for the term chromium within the Wikipedia domain.

intitle: – This operator allows you to search for documents that contain a specific word in their title. For example, the query [intitle:chromium] will only return web pages that have the word chromium within their title.

Excluding certain terms from your searches can be accomplished by putting a minus sign in front of the word you want to exclude. As an example, searching for the phrase “George -Washington Carver” would omit the word Washington from all search results.

Google also allows for the wildcard operator, which will return any results it deems relevant. This is useful if you aren’t sure of a specific term you want to use, but you do know a handful of words to include. Searching for [Obama voted on the * bill] will return all pages that have the phrase with any word that replaces the asterisk in the sentence.

Sometimes, Google likes to auto-correct words that it feels are wrong. This can be detrimental when searching for specific terms, since you may intentionally spell them wrong. As an example, searching for [+Razer blade laptop] will return specific results related to the computer peripheral company Razer, instead of auto-correcting your search for the phrase razor blade, which is more common.

When searching for specific terms within a related set, the OR operator comes in handy. By searching for the phrase [Battles in 1066 OR 1099], Google will return results that are related to either of the two years specified.

Most punctuation is ignored by search engines, but there are special cases in which punctuation is not ignored. Underscores between words such as [quick_break] are not ignored. Dollar signs are used to indicate prices for specific items and so they are not ignored, either. The phrase [acer laptop 600] and [acer laptop $600] will return completely different results because of the dollar sign. Terms that require punctuation to function are also not ignored. A good example of this is C++ and C#, both of which are programming languages.

Advanced Google Resources

Google has made it easy for users who want to tweak their search results without remembering modifiers that should be included with each query. Advanced search for both text and images is available, both of which offer robust options for narrowing your search according to what you need.

As an example, Google’s Advanced Image search lets you search by size of image, color of image, and even searching for images that have specific licenses tied to them for fair use. This can make finding images to include in any research papers much easier. For professors who require attribution for all sources, including images, Google Advanced Image search has you covered.

Advanced Scholar search works similarly to the modifiers mentioned above but in a more form friendly format for those who don’t want to remember these operators. Searching for specific phrases and exact words are entirely possible, but Scholar Search takes it one step further by allowing you to find articles that are written by one author specifically, within a specific time period, and within specific collections related to the subject at hand. This can come in handy especially for referencing specific authors, laws, theories, and corollaries.

Links & References

Collection of smart search queries and resources to bring better results in research:

http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/static.py?page=guide.cs&guide=1221265&answer=134479
http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/static.py?hl=en&page=guide.cs&guide=1221265&answer=136861&rd=2
http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/static.py?page=guide.cs&guide=1221265&answer=142143
http://scholar.google.com/advanced_scholar_search
http://www.google.com/advanced_search (Note: Reading level)
http://www.google.com/advanced_image_search
http://www.google.com/educators/posters.html
http://www.google.com/educators/p_websearch.html

Dan Petrovic is a well-known Australian SEO and a managing director of Dejan SEO. He has published numerous research articles in the field of search engine optimisation and online marketing. Dan's work is highly regarded by the world-wide SEO community and featured on some of the most reputable websites in the industry. Questions? Here's Dan's contact email.

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