The Ins and Outs of Google - How to Find Out Anything (2012)

How to Find Out Anything

3 The Ins and Outs of Google

The “Advanced Search” Template

The tools of Google’s “Advanced Search” deliver the holy grail of search results—namely, a small number of highly relevant hits. Since the average Google search routinely returns an absurd number of hits, getting your list whittled down to a manageable scale is a necessity for the busy researcher. “Advanced Search” is how we force Google to be more precise.

“Advanced Search” is how we force Google to be more precise.

The supersize results list that Google produces from a keyword search is no accident. The programming is designed to be all-inclusive; the search rules cast a wide net in an effort not to miss anything. That’s a worthy goal, but let’s face it: After you’ve looked at the first 25 hits, interest in the remaining 1,256,897 fizzles pretty quickly. Think of how much easier it would be to put your finger on exactly what you’re looking for if the list you were working with were both shorter and better tailored to your needs. Any home chef who has ever reduced stock will understand the principle: Boil things down to the essence. That’s what “Advanced Search” does.

Using “Advanced Search” to manage a lengthy results list is a two-step process. First, ask a better question—better questions come from using syntax tools to formulate better queries. Second, you’ll need to reduce the number of web pages that Google consults to create your hit list by using the filter tools to exclude things you don’t need to see. When used together, better queries and sensible filtering will not only chop your results list down to a reasonable size but greatly improve the informational signal-to-noise ratio. Remarkably, Google reports that fewer than 5 percent of all searchers, including Google’s own staff, use these tools. That’s a shame. They’re easy to master, and they supercharge your search results.

The link to the “Advanced Search” template lives underneath the gear tool that you will find after you have run an initial search. Learn where the link lives and make the “Advanced Search” template your starting point for all Google searching from this point forward. After you see how much better your results become, you can wean yourself from the “Advanced Search” template and instead get the same great results by typing out all the shortcuts directly into the standard search box on Google’s home page.

The search template, like most things Google designs, is a marvel of concision. The top four text boxes are the syntax tools that help you ask a better question. Below the syntax tools are the filters that pare down results list dramatically. These filters include the most useful tool in the bunch, the site or domain restrictor. The last two, the “Page-Specific Tools,” are two services that depend directly on Google’s celebrated PageRank system. When you find a page or site that speaks directly to your question and then want to find more pages just like that one, these services will locate additional pages or sites similar to the pertinent one you’ve found.

I recommend following along on your own computer as we tour the features of “Advanced Search.”

The Syntax Tools

Professional researchers trained on commercial search databases like Nexis, Dow Jones News Service, Dialog, or Factiva normally construct searches using Boolean connectors. This is the formal name for describing how a researcher can tell a database, “Show me this, but not that.” We emulate this in Google by specifying words we want to include, words we want to exclude, which words need to be treated as a single concept, and, at times, which different words are okay to search simultaneously because we’d be happy with results containing any one of them.

TEXT BOX: all these words

SYMBOL: quotation marks [“ ”]

TOOL: Google Verbatim

One of the reasons the average Google keyword search returns so many results is that the search engine looks not only for your term but for synonymous terms as well. In a keyword search, Google takes your search term, associates it with similar words and then returns that monster list, bloated with links to pages about which you could not care less. To get around Google’s noble attempt to be all-inclusive and instead make it more precise, put your keyword in quotation marks. This tells Google to dispense with the synonyms and deliver pages containing just your actual word or words, starting with pages in which your term is in the title of the page, the URL of the page, or, ideally, in both places. Given that well-designed websites will usually contain meaningful words in their URLs or the names of their pages, the most relevant matches should naturally bubble to the top. Shutting off the synonyms will confer immediate benefits in more precise results. I recommend using it for every search.

Old-time Google users once used the plus sign (+) for the same purpose, but with the advent of the social networking site Google+, the plus sign has been kicked upstairs and now serves not as a search operator but as a brand mark. To replace the plus sign, Google introduced Google Verbatim in the autumn of 2011: Run a search and then select Google Verbatim from the list of “More Search Tools.” Google will indulge you by looking for precise, literal matches to your search words. For experienced searchers, this ability to select exact words or phrases is a godsend. While it’s true that plain keyword searching without any punctuation does a serviceable job of returning relevant results, smart researchers benefit from more control of Google queries when using the quotation marks.

Smart researchers benefit from more control of Google queries when using the quotation marks.

Quotation marks also come in handy when searching for something that requires two or more words to express. Quotes around a search phrase tell Google to search for the phrase as a single concept and not as multiple isolated words.

“French poodle”

“Barack Obama”

“intellectual property law”

“cat lady” “The Simpsons”

“database” “interest rates”

“search” “baby names”

One caution, though. The quotation marks around a phrase are taken quite literally by Google. The phrase “John Kennedy” is a unique search and will not directly include “John F. Kennedy Jr.” The quotation marks tell Google to look for only those exact terms. “New York City” is a different search from “NY City” and “NYC.” The quotation marks are a powerful tool, so use them judiciously.

TEXT BOX: But don’t show pages that have…

SYMBOL: minus sign (hyphen) [-]

The power to say no is a very useful one. It really comes in handy in the Googlesphere, where adding a simple minus sign (type a hyphen) to a search term is the way to exclude that term from the query. In a language like English, in which a single word can have many different meanings, it’s critical to be able to explain which sense of the word you don’t want Google to search. Consider what would happen if you Googled for “avatar” in hopes of learning about Hindu mythology, but had no interest at all in the movie about the blue people. The power to elegantly exclude the millions of references to the film makes it much easier to find the avatar contexts that you do want to see. See it in action by first Googling for


Look at the curiously bracing number of results Google delivers. Now watch what happens when a little bit of exclusion works its magic. Compare the sheer number of results you get when you search:

“Avatar” -movie

That little minus sign (hyphen) slays a horde of a billion or more false hits. Formally speaking, the minus sign helps disambiguate results. Informally, we can call it uncluttering results by getting rid of false hits. When your search term has more than one meaning, use the minus sign to knock out meanings you don’t want from the results list:

That little minus sign (hyphen) slays a horde of a billion or more false hits.

“Newt” -Gingrich

“water table”-restaurant

“space planning” -NASA -“outer space” -rockets

TEXT BOX: one or more of these words


SYMBOL: pipe symbol [|]

In Googlespeak, a space between search terms is always interpreted as the word and. The following Google search:

“dalmatians” -Disney -101

tells Google, “Find me the exact word Dalmatians in the title or the URL of a web page AND exclude the word Disney AND exclude the number 101.” What about those times when you want to search for two or more different things at the same time, but you don’t need for the search terms to appear together? This is handy for those times when you can’t decide what to make for dinner or which camera to buy:

“Recipe” “lasagna” OR “lobster bisque” OR “chicken soup”

“digital SLR” “Nikon” | “Canon” | “Leica”

Other Syntax Tools

Certain syntax tools have a symbol, but they don’t have a corresponding search box on Google’s “Advanced Search” template. Don’t hesitate to use them as needed.


An asterisk acts as a wild card, inviting Google to fill in the blank:

SYMBOL: asterisk [*]

“IBM” “incorporated” state of *

“King * of Jordan”

* a cold * a fever

An asterisk acts as a wild card, inviting Google to fill in the blank.


When you want to search for a phrase or word that contains a punctuation mark or word that might be construed as a search symbol, like a hyphen or the word or, place the search term in brackets. Using brackets tells Google to treat what’s inside (punctuation, a word, a symbol) literally and to search for it in results.

A phrase containing the operator “OR” can be searched literally:

SYMBOL: brackets [[ ]]

[to be or not to be]

[give me liberty or give me death]

Going All In

In addition to searching for text that appears on a web page, some very handy search controls can look for your search term in a specific place in a web page: its title, its URL, or the anchor tag (which most people call a “link”).

Search for a single word in any of these places by using the commands as shown in these examples:




Similarly, find multiple words in any of these places by using the “allin” control—no quotation marks required:

allinurl:felony defense

allintitle:Jackson snakes plane

allintext:bedbugs remedy

And there you have it. The minus sign (hyphen), quotation marks, asterisk, and the word OR plus a handful of other syntax tools will help narrow your search. These symbols and controls are the first of the two steps on your way to transforming your Google results from a “before” picture to an “after.”

Now that you’ve learned how to ask Google better questions, let’s next see how to cut the web down to size.

Web Filters

Deliberately dumb rhetorical question: Do you need to search every web page on earth every time you want to find out the capital of Nebraska? I’m guessing not. Part two of our exercise in slimming down the hit list is the use of search filters that either automatically exclude certain types of information or focus the search on specific web pages. Some of these filters cut your results list down to size before you search; others, like the date restriction, wield their knife after you’ve gotten back a set of results. For example, you can restrict results by date using the “Advanced Search” template before you hit the “Search” button. When you search from the Google home page, however, you’ll need to filter by date after the results have appeared.

Domain and Site Searching

Of all the tools Google provides to help you search the web, none is as powerful or as useful as the site/domain search. Say you want to get information about diabetes research, but you want the information to come only from official U.S. government sites.

Of all the tools Google provides to help you search the web, none is as powerful or as useful as the site/domain search.

Without recourse to the domain filter, you could spend the better part of an afternoon trying to pluck out the government materials from the hot mess of links to universities, personal websites, content farms, peddlers of quack cures, and the like. Instead, you can restrict your search to government sites very elegantly by searching like this:


“search” “gasoline prices”

The top-level domains of the Internet should be familiar to all web users by now. Commercial sites are in the .com domain, schools and universities are in the .edu domain, U.S. government sites are .gov, and nonprofits are .org. All the nations of the world have been assigned a two-letter domain of their own: .ca (Canada), .mx (Mexico), .ch (Switzerland, for the Cantons Helvetica), .th (Thailand), and so on. The complete list of top-level domains is found at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the agency that sets the Internet’s addressing standards.

Want only French sites? Try adding to your search. Just need academic sites? Then will do the trick. Whatever the domain, the site: filter will search it. Conversely, to exclude results from a particular domain, add a minus sign (hyphen) as in the following examples:

“admissions” “Yale” (finds Yale University, not Yale Locks)

“charity” “adoption” (finds organizations, not government sites)

Searching a Specific Website

As convenient as it is to limit Google to a specific high-level domain, forsaking all others, perhaps my favorite filter of all is the site restrictor. This essentially uses Google to search a specific site. When you consider how many menus and levels and irrelevant pages you usually have to slog through to find that choice piece of information on most complex websites, this is one of the handiest tools to have at your disposal. Because most sites have flabby, low-power, built-in search boxes and elaborate menu systems that suck up time as you try to find something, having a way to use Google to reach inside a website and pull back exactly what you need is ideal. Why knock yourself out plowing through complex websites or sifting through results lists when you can jump right to the good stuff? Say you need to fast-shop the Tiffany site for a necklace or look for the chemical properties of ruthenium from the American Chemical Society or find the in-state tuition for Oregon State University? Don’t muck around with the search boxes on the respective sites. Do it the easy way, like this:



“tuition” “in-state”

Of all of Google’s powers, I have found nothing will make your online search better faster than using domain and site restrictions. Once you make domain searching a habitual part of your Google search creation, you’ll spend more time finding and less time searching. It’s a terrific feature. Along with quotation marks and the hyphen, use the site: feature whenever you can.

Of all of Google’s powers, nothing will make your online search better faster than using domain and site restrictions.

Date Restrictions

For the casual Google user, a search result list is a crazy quilt of information, with results pulled from all over the calendar. A typical list has links to websites where one result might have been updated yesterday, the next one last December, and the one after that six years ago. Sort out the snarl with Google’s time tools. To access the service, run a search and then click “More Search Tools” on the left-hand side of the page. The drop-down menu will reveal the options for filtering your search results by time—from past hour to past year, including a custom range. The date filter is a godsend for the researcher who needs to look for a news story or a web page containing time-sensitive information. This is a frequently overlooked tool. You can restrict the date before you search by using the “Date” drop-down menu in Google’s “Advanced Search” template to select your range. But if you are searching from the main page, run your search and then select from the date restrictors.

The date filter is a godsend for the researcher who needs to look for time-sensitive information.


I say tomato, you say il pomodoro. The web is global. So is Google. Search sites for whatever language your petit coeur desires, and the language tool will bring back your answers in the selected tongue. Note that the heavy-duty language search—in which Google will take your English-language query, translate it into another language, search sites in that language, and then return you a list of results translated from that language into English, lives in the “Language Tools” feature, a fancy tool that can be found in the drop-down menu when you click on the gear icon. More on that in a moment.

File Type

In those instances when you know that the information you want will be in a specific format—a court decision in pdf format or a professor’s presentation in PowerPoint, for instance—it pays to search not for a website but for a specific document format. This feature is not widely used, but I have found it to be useful when querying for materials that would most likely live on a spreadsheet, such as a list or financial data. The control is named filetype: and can be used in a search string, as follows:

“Roe v Wade” filetype:pdf (pdf file)

“SuperBowl winners” filetype:xls (Microsoft Excel file)

“sales” “motivation” filetype:ppt (Microsoft PowerPoint presentation)

Where Your Keywords Show Up

Keyword location allows you to find sites where your search term appears on a page title, in a URL, in the text of the page, or in links to the page from other sites. This feature helped a trademark researcher I know who was trying to find websites that were selling unlicensed merchandise that infringed on a client’s trademarks. To find sites that have used a trademark without permission in their URLs, conduct a Google search with the command inurl:. If the trademark were XYZ, then you would search for inurl:XYZ. Once my friend had the search results, he was able to track down the owners of those sites (using domain registration information) fairly quickly.

Google normally searches everywhere on a web page, but you can direct the search engine to focus on the title of a page, the URL, or the text a page when needed. Common sense says that any web page in which marktwain appears in the URL will probably have something to do with the author.


The region search is simply a twist on the domain restriction. A region search uses the two-letter country code for each nation of the world to limit online scrutiny to that country’s online contents. Like the example above, a region-restricted search is just a convenient way of fencing in your results lists to pages from a certain country. If the guacamole recipes you’re searching for just have to come from a source in Mexico, select it from this pulldown list, or use the aforementioned domain restriction and type out Either way, you get the same results.

Numeric Range

To look for prices within a range of values, use the numeric range control. You can type out a range in the main Google search box using two periods to separate the values, as in the following searches:

“car” “used” $5000..$8000

“shoes” “Louboutin” $250..$500

Page-Specific Tools

If, in the course of your research, you hit upon a website that is perfect for your needs, it’s only natural that you would want to find additional pages just like that one. Two features in Google’s “Advanced Search” template—“Find Pages Similar to the Page” and “Find Pages That Link to the Page”—do exactly that. Once you’ve found a useful web page, find sites with similar content by popping the URL of that page into one of these search boxes. These search tools are not always 100 percent accurate, but the results are close enough for government work.


The web, you may have noticed, changes frequently. In its efforts to make sure that only the most recent information is made available, Google displays the information it has on hand from the last time it looked at a web page. But what if you wanted to see what a page looked like, not from Google’s most recent effort but instead from the time before that? Google lets you peek at the state of a web page from its next-to-last look at a site.

To see what a web page looked like one session before the current one, click on the link labeled “cached” in the results list. It can be very informative when looking for material that has been removed from a website. That material is still retained and, therefore, retrievable in Google’s cache. One reporter in Hawaii found this out when the journalist caught wind that a Hawaii state agency had inadvertently posted a confidential report from the Department of Homeland Security on the state’s website. The report, detailing possible terror-attack scenarios, was supposed to be accessible only to state emergency-response officials. Still, the reporter Googled for the report. Like everyone else, he saw nothing but a 404 error message indicating a page that no longer existed. But by clicking on the cached link, the enterprising reporter found the report right there, hiding in plain sight, still alive in Google limbo.

Most web-savvy administrators now know that when they need to purge sensitive materials, they should ask Google to remove the questionable content, including the materials held in Google’s pile of previous results waiting in the trash file for deletion.

Don’t confuse Google’s cached feature, which shows a snapshot from a prior visit, with a completely different service, unassociated with Google, known as the Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine, a service of the Internet Archive, stores entire websites dating back to 1996 by periodically copying the sites whole. It is a great archival service that provides an easy way to see the web preserved in electronic amber. Pop in a URL and you can see websites as they were in days passed. If you have an itch to look at what a particular website looked like in 1999, the Wayback Machine will retro-rock you back to the days when InfoSeek was the dominant search engine and web searchers were fretting about the rules of Netiquette.

Reading Level

Beginner, intermediate, or advanced: you pick the sophistication level of the results of your search. This filter is handy for kids who may need the Dick-and-Jane version of specific subjects. Adults should stick to advanced, unless the topic is something dense like nuclear physics, epistemology, or the infield fly rule. Google designed the software by paying teachers to classify pages for different reading levels. The engineers then designed a statistical model that can compare a page with the model classification that the teachers designed to arrive at a reading-level rating. Google used the contents of Google Scholar to determine the level of language that would qualify as “advanced.”

Language Tools

Google was born in the United States, but it’s a citizen of the world. Perhaps owing to founder Sergey Brin’s immigrant heritage—his parents are Russian, and Brin immigrated to the United States at the age of six—Google’s language tools try to keep the world’s linguistic barriers from interfering with the sharing of knowledge. On the Google home page, the link to “Language Tools” can be found by clicking the gear icon; they offer a handy way to quickly translate a word, phrase, or an entire website into English.

I’m not a linguist, but the international lawyers I know who use the translation tool all agree: the translations are…satisfactory. You will be able to get the gist of what was written in the foreign language, but the software still can come up with a howler every now and then. Some of the translations sound as if they were the handiwork of someone who got a C-plus in French class. The prose is clunky, but still, to see an entire text-dense web page of virtually any written tongue magically appear in (broken) English is a testament to Google’s cleverness and its dedication to a world in which information is freed from restraints, including those of language.

Google Collections

Google is justifiably proud of its unique 80/20 workweek policy. Company professionals spend 80 percent of their time working on their usual projects and are not only permitted but encouraged to spend the other 20 percent of their time working on Google-related projects of personal interest. Google engineers have complained that that 80 percent is closer to 98 percent and that the 20 percent deep-think time doesn’t always materialize. Nonetheless, this innovative flextime has resulted in some of Google’s most interesting and useful new products since the introduction of the search engine. Grouped together, these products can be thought of as special data collections, arranged for easy retrieval by the same advanced search tools as the web but with the search focus trained on very specific types of information: news, alerts, books, finance, images, videos, and social media sites (such as blogs, online groups, and Google+).

Google News/Archives

If you haven’t read the news today, go directly to Google News to see what you’ve been missing. With its search aimed directly at an estimated 20,000 news-only sites from around the globe, Google News makes the classic Associated Press news ticker, which spat out rat-a-tat-tat news around the clock last century, look like a clay tablet by comparison. Google News is fast, accurate, and constructed so that 1,200 versions of the same global story don’t hog the front page. In fact, it is more akin to a customizable USA Today. Select a nation and Google News will happily fill in the top stories from there, along with relevant business, sports, and entertainment news.

If you haven’t read the news today, go directly to Google News to see what you’ve been missing.

Google is hard at work on an archive of headlines and articles from more than 200 years of news. It will not be merely a tool to fetch the day’s doings from a particular date but also a way to see the rise and fall of specific topics as part of an automatically generated timeline. Google is circumspect when it comes to talking about which newspapers will be included in the news archive, although the New York Times is an obvious choice. Solicitations for new content are prominent on the site as Google looks for additional content to beef up the collection.

Google Alerts

Searching news on the fly is great, but so is keeping track of it automatically. With Google Alerts, you’ll be able to follow breaking news on your topics of interest from a variety of online sources: from the web in general or just from news sites, blogs, videos, or discussion groups. When setting up alerts, be sure to use the “Advanced Search” syntax and filter tools for targeted results. Stay current with developments in the news or on selected websites by storing your searches and asking for alerts when information changes. Google Alerts will email you when new results arrive on a web page or when a news story matching your query is posted to a recognized news site. Alert results can be emailed as they appear, once a day, or once a week—your choice.

Google Books

In 2004, armed with high-speed and accurate scanners equipped with optical character recognition (OCR) software, Google approached a number of institutional libraries with this proposition: If we show up at your library with our scanners, and if we pay for it, would you let us in to scan your millions of books in order to convert them into text-searchable pdf files?

Some of the most prestigious institutions in the world took Google up on its offer—Harvard University; Columbia University; the New York Public Library; Oxford University; and the state universities of California, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others—all agreed to let Google’s scanners into the stacks.

Books that had been entombed on an obscure library shelf with very little hope of finding a reader now saw the light of day (if living on a server in a pdf document can rightly be called the light of day). In the earliest incarnation, the Google Books idea seemed like a dream come true for researchers: It promised to unearth otherwise inaccessible information. But fast-forward and you’ll see that everything did not go smoothly in the Google Books project. A court settlement in 2009 established that copyright had been infringed upon, and Google could resume scanning only orphan works—books that are out of print or whose copyright protection has ended. It could also scan current books in print, but only snippets, and then only with the permission of the author or publisher. Still, that settlement did not completely resolve the legal issues affecting Google Books, and challenges in the court are still on the docket. In addition to copyright questions, other would-be electronic publishers and scholars are concerned about Google essentially owning a monopoly on the books of the past. The legal issues are complex but interesting. A blog for librarians titled Google Book Settlement keeps up with the ongoing litigation; I recommend it as a way of seeing how the law deals with the changes imposed by modern technology.

Whatever the results of the different lawsuits eventually turn out to be, Google’s efforts to make a giant electronic library out of many print collections are impressive, and the value of Google Books to the researcher is undeniable. You could search the web all day and never put your finger on the exact quote you need from Moby-Dick. In the book version, it could take hours to thumb through the pages, past the descriptions of rendering blubber and a lunatic sea captain, to pin down the exact moment when Queequeg jumps into the sperm whale’s head to rescue Tashtego. With a Google Books search, you can save the unfortunate fellow from the gunk in an instant.

The project is admirably ambitious. In its quest to digitize the world’s books, the company first had to figure out just how many unique books exist. In a blog post, Google Books software engineer Leonid Taycher explained how they searched the global library systems, catalogs, and indices like the Library of Congress, WorldCat, and other comprehensive catalogs to come up with a number. Using complex algorithms and some commonsense filtering rules, Google determined that humans have produced 129,864,880 unique tomes. (Number subject to change.) It hasn’t scanned them all yet, but digitizing the remaining titles is on Google’s to-do list.

Books aren’t the only things stored inside Google Books. Magazines are there too. Try pulling up some back copies of New York magazine from the 1970s to see why the hairstyles from the U.S. bicentennial year needed to go out of fashion. Use the “Advanced Search” feature to locate books by any of the traditional means: title, author, publisher, date, subject, ISBN, and so on.

Google Finance

A mash-up of public information on public companies, Google Finance, an aggregation of corporate and financial information, pulls together real-time (or close to real-time) stock quotes, EDGAR filings, business news, blogs, chats, and analytical information all on a single page. For one-stop shopping for up-to-the-minute information on companies around the world, Google Finance is a tough act to beat. Use it to get a snapshot view of a public company and its current financial status. The chapter on company research will explain how to get a more detailed look at companies, but for quick reference, this service is excellent.

For one-stop shopping for up-to-the-minute information on companies around the world, Google Finance is a tough act to beat.

Google Scholar

As the company describes the collection, Google Scholar contains “journal and conference papers, theses and dissertations, academic books, pre-prints, abstracts, technical reports, and other scholarly literature from all broad areas of research.” For scholarly research, better resources are to be had at an academic library or from a large municipal library collection, but this site can be useful for retrieving cited material. Be cautious about depending on it for any in-depth research because there is no way to find out exactly what is contained in this database, and there is no guarantee that the materials are accurate. In my opinion, Google Scholar is a good idea that hasn’t yet matured into a service that researchers can use reliably. The warning goes double for legal researchers. Even though Google Scholar contains decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court and state appellate courts, try Justia or one of the other free legal sites before you search Google Scholar. It’s definitely not ready for prime-time legal research.

Other Google Tools

Social Tools

Although Facebook and Linkedin monopolize the headlines, Google also sponsors some very interesting social media tools. Old web hands who remember the Usenet groups from the 1990s-vintage Internet have found that social networking razzle-dazzle has not put the bulletin board services out to pasture. Google Groups, the successor to Usenet, is still zipping along, providing a meeting place for people with parochial interests. It’s where you’ll find very precisely defined bulletin board discussion groups where individuals can post and respond to questions that only twenty people in the world might care about. (And this to me has long been the Internet’s grand gift—it combats isolation.) Google also makes it easy for anyone to become a blogger.

Google+ confronts Facebook’s dominance in the social networking arena head-on. Not content to allow Facebook to monopolize the platform for I-had-tuna-fish-for-lunch threaded discussions, Google+ promises to give everyone’s inner narcissist even more elbow room, allowing users to create social circles and post videos. Other than the fact that Google+ makes it easier to locate people, its value as a research tool doesn’t look very promising.


I won’t go into the details of iGoogle, since Google can describe its own services well enough. I’ll just encourage you to set up a free iGoogle account as a way to homestead a little patch of cyberspace in the Cloud to call your own. Designed to compete with Microsoft, but especially to compete with Microsoft’s world-standard Office Suite, iGoogle offers a free word processing program (Google has Docs, Microsoft has Word), spreadsheets (Google has Forms, Microsoft has Excel), calendar functionality (Google has Calendar, Microsoft has Outlook), email program (Google has Gmail, Microsoft has Outlook), RSS reader (Google has Google Reader, Microsoft has Internet Explorer) and the like. iGoogle makes a researcher’s life easier by providing the same type of tools for free that otherwise would require an outlay of hundreds of dollars for the Microsoft equivalents. You’d be foolish to pass up one of the greatest deals on the web. The tools are powerful, and because the applications are all in the Cloud, your files are accessible from any web-connected spot on the planet.

The Rest of the Roster

Google eschews the snooze, constantly experimenting and devising new ways to understand the world by building better information tools. Web search, Google Maps, and Gmail are household names, but there are dozens of other Google services that serve online searchers, including online payment systems, shopping applications, health records services, and more. Since many of the services are helpful but don’t have direct bearing on looking up information in the strictest sense, I’ll just point you to Google’s own “More Google Products” page, where you’ll find capsule descriptions of the lesser-known tools. I recommend “Patent Search.” I’ve filled up many idle hours rifling through applications looking for wacky, absurd, or undeservedly obscure inventions.

For additional information on the minutiae of Google searching, I recommend the site Google Guide for an exhaustive list of search operators. I’ve also found Search Engine Watch to be the most authoritative and timely site for keeping up with new Google services and developments. It is designed for webmasters who need to make sure that their own sites get proper visibility on Google, but the news, updates, and white papers that appear regularly are helpful to any researcher who’s curious about the techniques of search to keep up with new developments.


“Books of the World, Stand Up and Be Counted! All 129,864,880 of You!”


Google Alerts

Google Books

Google Finance

Google Groups

Google Guide

Google Language Tools

Google News


Google Scholar

IANA Top-Level Domains



Search Engine Watch

Wayback Machine