How to Be a Better Web Searcher: Secrets from Google Scientists
Asking Google to answer a question is something that happens 70,000 times per second or 4 million times every minute. It’s how we find the latest news, a cheap flight ticket, nifty gadgets and everything in between. How many times have you heard, “Just google it!” in answer to a question you had? Google knows everything, never fear. For educators, the Web is a treasure house of edtech tools, apps, and websites to answer myriads of questions.
That is, Google can provide you with answers but are they the appropriate answers? That depends on a few factors, one of them being the fact that Google returns results that are attuned to the query, rather than some external sense of what is true or not. In other words, the search engine shows you websites that contain the information in your search, but it doesn’t evaluate the credibility of the websites. To get reliable results, searchers look for additional sources; they do a second and a third search to gain a wider perspective on their subject.
Most of the time Google offers the information you were looking for, but other times you can waste a lot of time looking for specific information. If you can’t always find what you are looking for, you can make some changes in how you search to get better results. Expert searchers find what they’re looking for by both deepening and broadening their research.
Narrow your search term down, but also and broaden your search
Deepen your search by changing a term or word in your search phrase. Either make your search phrase more precise or add additional terms so you reduce the number of off-topic results. You can broaden your search by opening a new tab or a new window for every search phrase. This allows you to investigate slightly different variations on your original search.
For the best way to phrase your query, use terms that are central to the topic and avoid terms unrelated to the topic. Also, use terms that you know the meaning of and keep common terms together – ([concert music] is very different from [music concert]). Limit your query to two to five terms.
Use some nifty operators
You can narrow the focus of your search by using special operators. You can employ quotation marks, which means the search engine will look for documents that contain that exact phrase, for instance, “Nepal’s mountaineering industry”.
If you want to search for a specific file type, you can use the operator filetype: for example [filetype:pdf chamomile tea]. If you want to search only one specific website, you can use site: as in [site:BusinessInsider.com marketing stats]
A cool trick – how to find if a specific phrase is somewhere on a webpage
One invaluable tip that saves tons of time is how to find if a piece of text appears on a page. You do this by using Command-F on Mac or Control-F on PC, which allows a box to pop up where you can type the phrase in that you are looking for. This saves you the time it would take to read through the entire text on the page.
Don’t believe the first result that pops up
You may be looking for global statistics on deaths due to smoking. You type into Google: global deaths due to smoking and up pops the answer, but you have to pay close attention. More often than not Google gives you the numbers for the United States, not the world. It’s best to click on the link and make sure.
Search engines are amazingly powerful tools that help us to find out just about anything we’re interested in. To get the results you’re looking for, don’t believe the first result that pops up; broaden your research and use Google operators to do it in the shortest time.