Toward Better Googling


Photo by Syben Stüvel.

There’s this idea floating around that, as librarians, we’re supposed to tell you not to “just Google it.” But the reality is that, well, that works sometimes. The problem that many people have with finding information on Google, though, is that they don’t know all of the different tricks you can use to make your Google search more efficient.

Next time you’re searching Google and not finding what you want, try these out:

  • Use quotation marks. Just like in Lexis and Westlaw, quotation marks in Google can be used to find phrases.
  • Seriously, use quotation marks, even for single words. One way that Google helps you is by automatically including results with words related to the term you searched. However, if you only want to find the word you searched and no other related words, you need to put that word in quotation marks. To see this in action, just look at the difference between this search and this search.
  • If you want even more related words, use a tilde. The tilde (~) before a word will bring back search results with a broader list of synonyms. (Also, you now know that that symbol is called a tilde.)
  • Limit your search to a specific site or domain. Want to just search government websites? Include this in your search: “” Want to just search the College of Law’s website? Include “”
  • Limit your search to a specific filetype. You may have noticed that reports are usually put online as PDF files. You can limit your search to just PDFs by including “filetype:pdf” in your search. This works with any file extension – try it out to find Word documents, Powerpoints, etc.
  • Change the order of the words. The order of the words matters in Google’s search algorithm. To see the difference, just try searching for “state georgia” and “georgia state.”
  • Use wildcards. The asterisk (*) is a wildcard operator for words in Google. You can’t use a wildcard for a single character, but you can use it for a word. So do you have a phrase where you think one or more words might change? Use a wildcard to replace them. It works great with misheard song lyrics.

Google has a page that you can consult with more tips and tricks. You can also take a couple of online courses on better searching.

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