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Searching and finding in Google: Home

Basic and advanced techniques and informations to help you improve search results

Kinds of searching

"Google" has become a verb (now we Google things, instead of just surfing the web), but not a lot of people know there are two basic kinds of searches.

Recall searching attempts to get as many results as possible, on the theory that something important might be left out with a more restrictive search.

Precision searching attempts to get results that most closely match what is being sought, even if some possibly useful results are left out.

Recall searching is easiest, but precision searching will help you get closer to the kinds of information you can really use. After all, you're not very likely to go beyond the first page or two of Google results, so you might as well narrow things down as much as possible!

Suggestions for better searching

  1. Use more search terms to narrow your results. Movie reviews will result in a more targeted search than reviews.
  2. Looking for an exact phrase is more precise than searching for general terms. To search for an exact phrase, put quotes around the search string. "movie reviews" means that the exact phrase must be found somewhere in the document. This means you'll get fewer results to sort through than searching for movie reviews (without quotes), which would include any result that has both the word movie and the word reviews anywhere in it.
  3. Spelling counts! To get the exact spelling, put quotes around the word. "kinves" gets different results than "knives".
  4. Exclude terms you don't need. For example, if you're searching for something about the fruit bananas, results about the Banana Republic don't help. You can exclude the word republic by searching for banana -republic (with a minus sign in front of the words you want to exclude).
  5. Try wildcards. For example, if you need to find out how Sen. Jeff Sessions voted on bills, whether he voted yes or no, try searching "jeff sessions" voted * on bills (substituting an asterisk for the word that can change).

Skip words

Did you know you'll get better results if you don't use small, common words?

Because small words like 'the', 'a', and 'and' are so common, they will result in many, many more search results than could possibly be useful. Try leaving those words out. Instead of the boy and the girl looked in a shop, try boy girl looked shop. You'll probably get resutls that are closer to what you really want, and you'll have fewer results (maybe by the tens of millions!) to slog through.