Comprehensive Guide to Reliable Search Results
When it comes to getting reliable and efficient search results, it pays to know how to make the most of the search engine that you are using. Google’s search interface is deceptively simple. There’s more to conducting an effective search than inputting a string of text, though. The following tips will help you pinpoint the precise results that you need; additional information about fact-checking those results is included, as well.
Excluding and Including Information
Google has many snazzy advanced search options that let you pare down your search results with ease. Most people know that placing quotes around a phrase will return results that exclusively include that specific phrase; leaving out the quotes will return results for pages that include all of the search terms, but not necessarily in the exact order in which they are inputted. Quotes, then, are great ways to restrict your search to pages that only include the precise phrase that you need.
If your search is being stymied by a slew of irrelevant pages, you can easily eliminate those extraneous results by telling Google to exclude them. This can be accomplished by using the minus symbol (-) just before the word or phrase that you would like to exclude.
You can search for multiple terms at once by using the pipe symbol (|) or by typing OR between search terms. This comes in handy for synonyms, or for times when the topic at hand can be expressed in various different ways. For instance, if you are conducting a search about strong storms, you could search for the string “tropical storm OR cyclone OR hurricane,” which will return results for all three terms.
Limiting Your Search to Specific Websites
Let’s face it: The Internet is awash with not-so-reliable websites. A great way to increase your odds of getting relevant and factual results is by restricting your search to websites that you know and trust. When conducting research for a term paper, for instance, it pays to stick with education- or government-based websites. On Google, you can restrict your search to such sites by using the “site:” operator. To restrict your search results to government- and education-based sites, insert “site:.edu” or “site:.gov” before your search query. The “site:” operator can be used to restrict a search to a specific website, too; for instance, you can limit your search to NASA’s site by typing “site:www.nasa.gov” before your search query.
Conducting Specialized Searches
A great way to pinpoint more relevant search results is by making use of Google’s many specialized search engines. A few key examples include:
Google Scholar (scholar.google.com) – Restrict your search to the wealth of scholarly literature that exists online. You can input search queries as usual; results will be culled from theses, articles, court opinions, abstracts and other sources.
Google Images (images.google.com) – Zero in on the exact image that you need by conducting a search here. The same search operators can be used to produce spot-on results.
Google Local – After conducting a regular search on Google’s main site, you can narrow down the results to a specific area by customizing the information along the left-hand column. Use the “change location” to narrow things down to a specific geographical area. Clicking on the “more results” link will reveal additional options; click on “nearby” to return results that originate from your specified area or region.
Google Books (books.google.com) – Figure out whether there are any worthwhile books on the topic that you are investigating by conducting a search on this site. In some cases, entire books are available online; other times, you may have to pay to download an e-book or check one out from the local library.
Tracking Down Specific File Types
Another great way to customize and narrow down your search results is by restricting your search to certain file types. For example, a lot of high-quality information is available on PDF. Just include the “filetype:” operator, followed by the file type, to enjoy this feature.
Searching within a Specific Period of Time
The sidebar on the main Google site also allows you to limit your search results to a specific period of time. “Any time” is the default time frame for results; you can also click on options like “latest,” “past week” and “past year.” You also have the option of specifying an exact time frame by clicking on “custom range.” This feature especially comes in handy for time-sensitive, breaking-news types of situations.
Verifying the Validity of Your Search Results
Just because something is found online does not mean that it is accurate. Don’t ever take the word of a single website when conducting research online. When you find pinpointed and promising search results, always dig deeper and look for confirmation that it is valid. Conduct a search about the source of your information to confirm that it is trustworthy. Conduct additional searches about your results to ensure that others agree with your findings.
Finding reliable results online is possible. The trick is taking the time and developing the skills to make the most of today’s search engines.
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Added on 2 August 2011: