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How to search Google

 Google is currently the most popular search engine on the web. Google sorts it’s results by what it calls “PageRank.” The more times people on the internet link to a page, the higher its rank.  That is why wikipedia is usually the first item. So it’s sort of like a popularity contest… and sometimes the least popular pages are the ones you’re looking for — so be specific as possible in your search! If you need help, ask your librarian!  All individual search engines use “spiders” to traverse the internet. These spiders are computer programs that travel around the internet, going from link to link, and writing down every word on every page. So when you do a search for, say, “mercury,” the search engine will list every page that has the word “mercury” somewhere on it. But it won’t know whether you’re talking about a mineral, a planet, a character from roman mythology or a type of car — so make your search as specific as possible.


So how do you make your Google search as specific as possible?

  1. Pick appropriate key terms.

    • Slang terms will pick up different items vs using scientific or common terms

EX:  Ink vs. tat vs. sleeve vs. Tattoo vs. body art

    • In the search box, do not ask a question.  Otherwise Google will be looking for each word and will retrieve all sites that have any of these words.

EX: What was the most popular tattoo during the Civil War? retrieves about  2,950,000 results

    • Only use the Key Terms that are meaningful as Google looks at each word independently

Ex: “Civil War” tattoos retrieves about  930,000 results which is 2 million less.

  1. Use Double Quotes when searching phrases, otherwise Google will search for each term separately.  If you were searching for Civil War it would pull up all sites with the word Civil and all the sites with the word War for a total of 186 Million, while using “Civil War” gets 133 Million. Keep in mind that this search will also pull up Civil Wars in other countries.  Adding the term “US Civil War” reduces the amount of hits dramatically to 755 Thousand.  This is also a technique to find songs, poems, & speeches.  Type in quotes, a line(s) from a song,  poem, or speech.


  1. Add additional Key Terms to refine search.  Sometimes there will be 2 possible words that mean the same, to include either key term type OR

    • OR must be capitalized

Ex: US OR American “Civil War”


  1. To search only US government sites type [key term]

Ex: mercury fish


  1. To search only education institutions type [key term]

Ex: mercury planet


  1. To search a specific website only type site:[Webaddress].  This will limit result to just that website

    • If I wanted to search only the College Board… scholarships

    • If I want to search only the Smithsonian… Muppets


  1. To find only PDF files type filetype:pdf   Unlike Microsoft Word documents, pdf files are cross platform.  What you see is what you get.  The font and formatting does not change if you are on a desktop, phone, or tablet.  Many times books, documents, magazines, maps, infographics, and posters are some examples of PDF files

Ex: Disneyland filetype:pdf


  1. To find only PowerPoint presentations type filetype:ppt

Ex: Football  filetype:ppt


  1. To find the key term in an article press Ctrl  F

    • A box will appear in the right hand corner

    • Type the key term and hit enter

    • The word will be highlighted and the box will say how many instances the key term is used.

    • Using the arrows, one can quickly go the key terms.


  1. To narrow a search by date range type #..#

Ex :”Disneyland E tickets” 1971..1975


  1. To narrow a search even further type  -[key term]

    • Notice that there is no space between the minus sign and the word

Ex: “Civil War” Gettysburg -Address -anniversary


  1. Another tool to narrow a search is to use intext:[word]  This tells Google to find articles who have this specific word in the text, unlike keyword search, Google is doing 2 separate searches.  First for the key terms and then once it has populated that list, Google will look for the intext word.

Ex:  Searching for the weather conditions during Lincoln’s Gettysburg address

“Gettysburg Address” intext:weather

  1. To search for other sites that link to a given website type link:[website]

    • Use this to verify the validity of a website.  Check who is linking to that site.  Is it commercial, education, government, or other wiki websites?


  1. To access  maps type the address into the search bar. [address]  or click on the box in the right hand corner with the 9 little boxes, select more and choose maps.  This will open Google Maps.

Ex: 790 J St Lincoln, CA


  1. Use Google as a calculator. Type Calculator or enter your math problem directly into the search field.  Google will pull up a scientific calculator.  Use it to solve basic math problems, trigonometry, and functions. To create a graphing calculator type the coordinates.


  16.  Stuck in Geometry.  Use Google to help you with your formulas

Example searches

  • [what is the volume of a cylinder with radius 4cm and height 8cm]

  • [formula for a triangle perimeter]

  • [find the diameter of a sphere whose volume is 524 gallons]

  • [a^2+b^2=c^2 calc a=4 b=7 c=?]


17. Need to convert to metric, time, temperature,  or digital storage type [Unit Converter]