Routine Google searching

This page is concerned with simple Google searching there are other Google utilities that are well worth having a look at.

To illustrate some of the search tweaking we have referred to set up a Google search in another tab or page in your browser. Type in the words: educational research

Google, at the time of writing this page indicates there are about 28,000,000 pages it found. Note also, Google 'knew' you were searching from Australia1 and attaches the domain suffix .au to the generic

The thing to remember is that this search has been _customised_ just for you, i.e. Google "knowing" what it does about your interests, ranks the pages it has found to put the pages it think are of most value to you at the top.

Now put the two words in double quotes, i.e. "educational research". There are now 8,340,000 hits. The double quotes only picks up pages which have those two words adjacent. Now try this search without quotes: educational near research. You should get about 196,000,000 hits. The term 'near' is a word that Google interprets as finding pages with the two words near to one another. There are other search operators that you will find handy. One that can be handy in limiting the number of hits that a search produces is to use the minus sign or the operator, not2.

For example, if we go back to our "educational research" search and now try: "educational research" not principal. The number of hits falls to 3,190,000! Still too many to deal with but the point is to flag the use of the operator not. If you are not using a phrase in quotes then you can use the minus sign to eliminate terms you are not interested in. But it is important to note that the way the software works it treats the Boolean operators: AND, OR and NOT3.

Clearly the number of hits we have are too many to be useful. But before we try modifying the search it is important to think about why particular sites appear at the top of the list. While there is not a simple answer to this question, it is an important one to ask how its search software works. Knowing these kinds of things are not just a matter of having fun poking around inside the workings of software. It matters. If you rely on using this software then you have to have some sense of how it works, what we call complementary skills.

There is a good deal of information on the Web about these issues. We simply wanted to draw your attention to these considerations.

There are a good number of helpful tutorial sites, e.g. GoogleGuide or Google search tricks in a Prezi. There are many more.

Most people think they are good at searching using Google because they always find "stuff". It's a skill that requires constant refinement and practice. It will work well for you if you can keep asking questions about what gets put at the top of the list of hits.

Eli Pariser has done some excellent work4 to explore the problem of perfect personalisation.

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