Google better with Google

Or 14 super search tips for scientists and students. The following scholarly super search tips are an explanation for the enclosed slideshare presentation.

Google better with google

This slideshare presentation was posted a while back on WoW!ter’s slideshare, but has been updated to stay sync with this blogpost

The tips
1. Which Google do you want to use? We have a large international audience of users at our University, who normally are redirected to http://www.google.nl. However if you use http://www.google.com/ncr then you get the international version. But if you prefer your Indian version http://www.google.co.in/ncr works as well. With the /ncr you can control the regional version you are using easily.

2. Personalize your search experience. Nowadays found under the small cogwheel at the top right hand of the page or follow this link. The sections I always pay attention to is the filter option. Why should Google judge if something is fit for my eyes? Or not? I also advice to set the number of search results to 50 (but you can’t make use of Google instant search in that case) I used to use 100 results, but even I found that a wee bit too much. Lastly I always check the box to open the results in a new window (it actually opens a new tab, rather than a window), this keeps my search results window in tact whilst I browse some to the results I retrieved.

Some further personalisation would include to install the google toolbar in your browser, or even a step more in the personalization of the search experience is to make use of iGoogle.

3. There is more than 1 Google. Many people are only using the standard Google web search engine. But for academics, Google Scholar, Google book search, Google patents are certainly specific interfaces that should be part of the searchers trick of the trades.

4. Google universal. Nowadays, Google has realized that the many different search interfaces cause a problem for the users as well and therefore they have introduced the universal search engine results page with a lot of specific options on the left hand side of the results. However a suggestion to use Google Scholar is not included.

5. Learn from the advanced search interface. All Google search interfaces have an advanced search option. Use these options to see what the possibilities of the specific search interface are, and learn how you can make use of these advanced search operators in the normal search interface. When you make use of the advanced search options in Google Scholar you see an option to search for a specific author which translates in the Scholar search box as [nitrogen fixation author:”K E Giller”]

6. Be specific or search with more than 1 term In the Dutch language we can often get away with searching for a single word, because we are allowed to make incredibly long compound words such as “wapenstilstandsonderhandelingen”. When you’re searching for scientific information you better stick to English as language . In English can’t make compound words. This is a small language difference which necessitates searching with more terms. But apart from the language difference, when you search with more terms, searches become more specific and the results more relevant. In the current example a search for water only, results in more than 700 million results, whereas [Water management technology assessment] results in nearly 8 million results.
Interestingly, when you look at the results in the slides, you’ll notice that total results numbers in Google are unreliable to say the least. In the step from 2 to 3 search terms the result sets increases again.
The fifth example in the slide is an introduction to the next slide. You can be even more precise when searching.

7. Keep words together. Make us of “phrase searches”. A phrase search is a search which returns the words in exactly the specified order. Of course Google already ranks the results with the phrases of search terms at the very top of the search engine results page. This technique also reduces the sheer number of possible results. Compare for instance [“water management”] with [water management]. You can combine as many phrases as you like (see the previous slide), or make them really long (the latter is also used in plagiarism checks).

8. Search for title words. When you feel overwhelmed by the number of results a good solution is to limit your search to title words rather than anywhere on a page. You can search for single title words with the operator, or all of your search words with the operator. These operators are the same when you compare [intitle:”water management”] with [allintitle:water management]

9. Search for information in PDF files. Most scientific information is published on the web in the format of PDF files. Be it as a scientific report or a scholarly article e.g. [Agaricus bisporus ext:pdf]. A couple of years ago this was an extremely efficient way to look for scholarly information on the Web. However, since it has become very easy to produce your own PDF files, this technique has suffered some of its effectiveness, but it still works wonders. Especially in combination with the other tips.

10. Search for results from a specific domain. In some cases it is useful to restrict you results to a certain website or domain. This is certainly true for sites that don’t have good site search options e.g. [EndNote site:library.wur.nl]. You can also limit the results to the academic institutions of the USA [“water management” site:.edu].

11. Search for number ranges. Apart from the fact that Google is a powerful calculator, you can also search for number ranges. This comes in handy when you want to limit your search to results from certain publication years, e.g. [“publication strategy” 2009…2011]. Note that three dots is different (better) than the standard used two dots.

12. Exclude specific terms with the – operator. You can narrow your searches using this operator. You can exclude as many words as you want by using the – sign in front of all of them, for example [mercury -ford -freddy -outboards -planets].

13. Search with OR. In some occasions it the intelligence of Google doesn’t include obvious synonyms. With the OR operator you can combine search terms e.g. [“carbon dioxide” OR CO2]. Notice that OR should be typed with capitals.

14. Combine. Having seen some of the options of the Google search engine you should realize that you can combine most of these operators. In this way you can make very precise searches [“publication strategy” citations 2009…2011 ext:pdf]