Hello and welcome to the ncLibraries tutorial on internet searching. This tutorial will give you some tips and skills to improve your web searching, specifically with Google. In this tutorial we’ll look at some search basics strategies for refining your search and some hidden search options in Google. Advanced mastering these techniques will help you in school, business and in everyday life by maximizing your efficiency when you’re looking for relevant information on the web.


Let’s get started: here are some basic points about google searching to keep in mind – capitalization doesn’t matter – punctuation is generally ignored – spelling is automatically corrected – Google assumes an and between your search terms and finally Google searches for synonyms automatically when you search an online database like the ones you find through the library.


You probably don’t want to start too narrow because there’s a limited amount of information in each database but on the web it’s better to use the opposite strategy and incorporate more words in your searches to avoid generating an overwhelming number of search results. For example a search on health care in Canada currently retrieves over two hundred and thirty four million results. When sustainability is added to the search, the results decreased to 17 million. The more specific you are with your search terms the more relevant your results will be. One of the most helpful things you can do is use quotation marks around a phrase to search for those words together exactly as they appear. For example searching health care reform retrieved over a one hundred and fifty five million results when this was written. Compare that to searching health care reform with quotation marks around it. This cuts the number of search results down to eight point two million.


Still a lot but you’re at least getting closer. There are a number of different search operators you can use to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Here are some of the more commonly used functions:


  1. Exclude words from your search by putting a minus sign in front of the word you want to leave out, for example health care reform Canada – United States.
  2. Combine your search with or to expand your search criteria, for example health care Canada or elder care Canada S
  3. Search for results from a specific website by putting site colon in front of a domain, for example health care site: CBC CA
  4. Get more details about a site by putting info colon in front of the site address, for example info: CPC CA
  5. Instead of trying to remember the previously discussed search operators you can use Google’s advanced search features to accomplish the same functions.
  6. Go to search settings advanced search and use the search fields.
  7. You will also find search limiters here that can help you narrow your search by language, region, last updated date, site or domain where your search terms appear eliminating explicit material, file type and usage rights.


You try the same search in different search engines to see other results that Google may have missed. DuckDuckGo is a popular alternative search engine that doesn’t track you if you’re looking for scholarly peer-reviewed research. Consider using Google Scholar as an alternative to general Google. Of course don’t forget the library to recap. You’ll save yourself time and frustration with your web searches if you take advantage of the advanced search options available to you. Remember to be as specific as possible with your search to achieve maximum relevancy in your results. Finally don’t be afraid to try the same search in multiple search engines to ensure you’re not missing out on crucial information.


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