A few internet browsing tips…

Yesterday, I attended a Bay Area Independent School Librarians meeting where Dan Russel, a researcher at Google, gave a lecture on internet searching for librarians.  It was a terrific presentation, so I thought you might be interested as well in some neat searching tips and strategies.  I won’t post all of them, but will list some of the highlights below.

Tips and Strategies

  • Use the Tab function in your browser.  Rather than opening up multiple windows, opening new tabs (apple-t on macs) is far easier.  This way, when you are searching, you can easily switch between tabs rather than clogging up your desktop with multiple browser pages.
  • When using Google to search the internet, you can use the minus sign [ – ] to exclude specific search results.  So if you want to search for a salsa recipe, but dislike cilantro, and want to find only those recipes that did without that tasty herb, you could type the following: salsa recipe -cilantro.  You can test this by first searching for salsa recipe–which delivers about 1,420,000 results, and then searching for salsa recipe -cilantro–which delivers about 1,220,000 results.  Give it a try!
  • When looking for a specific word on a page, use the Apple-F (or Find from the Edit drop down menu) function.  This function will highlight a specific word or phrase in a webpage.  Very useful when you are looking for specific information on a large page with a lot of text.
  • In the Google search field you can type define: and then a word to quickly see many definitions that exist online, and if you are not sure of a word, you can go to…
  • Reverse Dictionary (http://www.onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml) which allows users to type in a list of words (or just one) and the site retrieves other words that relate to the words you typed in the search field.  This is a great tool when you can recall one or more words of a specific sort, but can’t quite recall the exact one you need.
  • Another interesting tip is using site: and then enter a website and then your search term.  Site: restricts your search to just that website.  So if you wanted to find information on your new iPhone, but only wanted official documentation from Apple, you could type: site:apple.com iphone.
  • filetype: allows you to just search for a specific type of file and exclude everything else. To build on the above example, if you wanted to search for what PDFs existed on Apple’s site about the iphone, you could type: site:apple.com filetype:pdf iphone.
  • Finally one really cool tool that I have never used is the Show Options tool (found below the search field on Google).  By clicking this, a menu opens up on the left of the screen, and from here you can select several options.  This is better to just explore yourself, but one really helpful tool (at least for me) was the “related searches” tool.  When you click on “related searches,” the page displays a list of other searches, different but still similar to your own.  A good tool when you can’t find what you want and would like to see other searches that offer different ways of finding the information you need.

    An image of the "Show Options" tool on the Google search page.
    An image of the "Show Options" tool on the Google search page.

I hope this is helpful!  Dan Russel has posted this entire presentation online as a PDF, so if you want to read the full version, go to his google page linked at the beginning of this post, and click on the “Become a Super Internet Searcher” link at the bottom of his page.


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