Google 101: Web search tips
Google was founded by two Stanford University Ph.D. students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It is clean, crisp and uncluttered with few searching options. It indexes relatively few pages (90-100 million) but it returns the search results based on popularity, measured in links from other pages.
While Google may give you helpful leads on information, in many cases you'll need to access academic-quality, scholarly information using the library catalogues, article databases, and subject guides. Knowing how to effectively search the web and then critically evaluate the websites you find will help you quickly locate the most relevant information. In addition to Google, you may find Google Scholar and Google Books helpful for your research.
If you want to cite websites in academic work, you will need to be more critical of the content than you might be for casual internet use. Remembering a short mnemonic can help: BAT (Bias, Authority, and Timeliness).
- Bias: What is the purpose of the site, who is the intended audience, and what motives does the author have for presenting this information?
- Authority: Who is responsible for creating, contributing to, or maintaining the site and from what knowledge, expertise, or experience does the author speak?
- Timeliness: How current is the information and when was the site last updated?
|Just because it's on the internet, doesn't make it true - even if it looks professional. For example, check this out: Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus!|
Before searching in Google using plain language, consider crafting your search with specific techniques to retrieve more relevant results.
AND is implied in Google searches and therefore is not necessary.
Quotation marks (" ") will limit your search to a specific phase.
- Separate searches for [environmental policy] and [environmental AND policy] will retrieve the same results
OR helps you search using multiple words which express a similar concept. OR must be capitalized so Google understands this is a searching word, not a word to be searched.
- ["climate change"] will search for results with this exact phase. A search for [climate change] will search for results with instances of both the words climate and change, and retrieve such unrelated results as "The political climate has changed since the adoption of free trade."
Word order and word choice are important.
- For example, [teenager OR adolescent OR youth]
- ["climate change" or "global warming"]
Asterisks (*) will retrieve words with multiple endings.
- [Genetic engineering] and [engineering genetics] will retrieve different results
(~) helps you to search for synonyms and can help you locate words with similar meanings.
- Canad* will retrieve Canada, Canadian, and Canadians
- feminis* will retrieve feminism, feminisms, feminist, and feminists
Set limits to Google searches.
- ~car will retrieve automobile, vehicle
- intitle: retrieves search words which appear in the website's title field
intitle:canad* "climate change"
- inurl: retrieves search words which appear in the websites's url
inurl:shakespeare "elizabethan england"
- filetype: retrieves specific file types such as HTML, PDFs, MS Word (doc), Excel (xls), PowerPoint (ppt)
filetype:pdf "organizational development" leadership
|Check out more Google search tips. Search techniques vary across different search engines (including article databases and the library catalogue), so always consult their help page if you're not getting the results you expect.|
Google Scholar searches peer-reviewed articles, books, reports, theses, preprints, abstracts, technical reports, conference papers and more. It may also return citations to sources even if the source itself is not available online, inlcuding references to books. Anyone can use it to search, but full-text content is not always available.
If the library has access to an article through a subscription database, you will see a "Get this@UVic" link if you're searching at UVic. Not on campus? Search from the Google Scholar link on the home page under the Articles Tab (you will need your Netlink ID to get full text). If you don't see a full-text link, look for it the library catalogue - we might have it in print. Learn more about Google Scholar.
Item not @ UVic? Like any other article database, if you can't get full text from Google Scholar, you can request an interlibrary loan to have a copy sent to you. Additionally, just like any other database, Google Scholar has unique content and is a great place to search, but it's only one place to search, and it doesn't have everything. Include it in your research plan but be sure to look in other places, too. The subject guides can help you get started.
For more information contact:
Teaching and Learning Office