Over the years, I have had several awesome teachers and professors who have helped me learn how to write essays and research papers for my classes quickly and efficiently. Because of them, I have earned consistently high scores on all of my writing assignments and papers in all of my classes, including my college classes, and frequently get asked for writing advice from my friends and other students in my classes. As part of my Writing Success series, here is how I run effective web searches to find information for papers, as well as how I use these search techniques in my other classes.
Searching words/phrases with quotation marks
One of the fastest ways that users can refine their web searches is by adding quotation marks around words or phrases that they want to find. The search engine will look for exact matches for whatever text is in the quotation marks, and display those in the results. For example, instead of searching for Veronica With Four Eyes, which will provide results that match any combination of those words, I can search “Veronica With Four Eyes” and find more relevant content that relates directly to my website.
Finding specific website types/domain names
Whenever I am researching information for papers, I prefer to use websites from other educational institutions or government resources so that I can make sure I am finding credible searches. In these cases, I will type the phrase site:gov for government sides or site:edu for educational sites, followed by my query, so that I can make sure the results come from a specific type of website.
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Searching within a specific website
Besides using the site tool to search for specific types of domains, users can use the site: tool to search for results from a specific website. One example of this would be searching “site:veroniiiica.com transition” without quotation marks to find my posts related to college transition, or any of my posts that contain the word transition. This can be combined with quotation marks for keywords as well, so users could put “transition” in quotation marks if they wanted to.
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Searching by file type
Looking for files in a specific format for accessibility or research reasons? Use the phrase filetype (all one word) followed by a colon and the file format that is being requested, followed by the search query. To find Word documents related to Python, I would search filetype:docx “python” either with or without the quotation marks.
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Using a hyphen to exclude words
Speaking of Python, there have been times where I have been searching for information about the programming language and received results related to snakes. While this doesn’t happen overly often, it can be helpful to use the hyphen symbol to exclude words when doing a search so that they do not show up. If I was looking for information on Python loops and wanted to exclude information on snakes, I would type “python loops -snake” without the quotation marks.
Finding pages that are linked to other pages
If I am looking for similar resources to another page I am looking at, it’s helpful to find pages that are linked to other pages. This can be done with the link tool, which is the word link followed by a colon and no spacing between the URL. If I wanted to find pages that link to my website I would run a search for link:www.veroniiiica.com. This also works for more specific pages- I can search for a link to a specific post or page and get results back if others have linked to them.
Summary of how to run effective web searches
- To find exact words or phrases in search results, add quotation marks around words or phrases, i.e “Veronica With Four Eyes”
- Users can find results from a specific domain and website by writing the word site followed by a colon, such as “site:veroniiiica.com transition” or “site:edu assistive technology”
- In order to find files that match a specific file type, use the word filetype followed by a colon- this looks like “filetype:docx” for finding docx files
- Use a hypen to exclude words from a search, such as “python -snake”
- To find pages that are linked to other pages, search for the word link followed by a colon and the website- i.e “link:veroniiiica.com”