Introduction: How to Properly Use a Search Engine

There are many specific techniques in order to get the search results that you may need. It is very common to not be aware of such techniques and fail to get the best search results for an intended purpose. Google is the primary example in the instructions provided below. Topics that will be covered include using Boolean expressions to formulate a search, tips for non-academic searches, tips for online academic research, and how to use Google Scholar.

Step 1: Contents

1. Boolean Expressions for Search Engines

1.1 Quotation marks

1.2 Positive signs (+)

1.3 Negative signs (-)

1.4 The OR operator

1.5 The AND operator

1.6 The NEAR operator

1.7 Asterisk (*)

2. Tips for Non-Academic Google Searches

3. Tips for Online Academic Research

4. How to Use Google Scholar

4.1 Utilizing “Advanced Search”

4.2 Utilizing “My Library”

4.3 Understanding Links

Step 2: 1. Boolean Expressions for Search Engines

Boolean expressions can be used with any search engine, not just Google. They enable very specific results. Below are some examples of Boolean expressions and how they can be used.

Step 3: 1.1 Quotation Marks

Note: Use quotation marks to search a phrase exactly word for word.

Step 1: Search “signs of unstable weather” with the quotation marks included. You will see the search engine searches for the exact phrase with no break in between the words.

Step 2: Search the phrase without quotation marks. The results are very different and steer off from what you may want.

Step 4: 1.2 Positive Signs (+)

Note: Use positive signs to include words in a search that are being ignored by the engine.

Step 1: Search “+signs of unstable weather” without the quotation marks. This tells Google to always include the word “signs.”

Step 5: 1.3 Negative Signs (–)

Note: Use negative signs to exclude words from a search when Google usually includes them.

Step 1: Search “spots on fur –dogs” without the quotation marks. This will give results for any potential animal except for dogs.

Step 2: Search without “–dogs” in the search. Notice that

the top three results now primarily contain dogs.

Step 6: 1.4 the OR Operator

Note: Use the word OR to allow the search to include another word, or phrase, around OR.

Step 1: Search “missing fur rabbits OR cats” without the quotation marks. This tells Google to search for pages that have information on rabbits, cats, or both.

Step 2: Remove the OR expression. Notice the results fail to list any information on cats.

Step 7: 1.5 the AND Operator

Note: Use the word AND to tell Google to allow both words to be included in the results.

Step 1: Search “painting with acrylic AND oil” without the quotation marks. Notice that in the top three results, two of the results include acrylics being mixed with oil paints.

Step 2: Remove the AND expression. Notice the top three results are mainly results helping searchers decide which one medium is more suitable, rather than both mixed together.

Step 8: 1.6 the NEAR Operator

Note: The NEAR operator is similar to the AND operator, except the NEAR operator allows a range of 16 words between the two words or phrases in the search.

Step 1: Search “allergies NEAR ocean” without quotation marks. The results will include both the words “allergies” and “ocean” within the range of 16 words.

Note: If only the AND operator were to be used, the results could include webpages that don’t provide information with an actual correlation between allergies and the ocean. The results could instead include a webpage about the “ocean” with “allergies” listed somewhere on the page and no direction relation between the two.

Note: Without either operator, the results may not be as specific or reliable for the information wanted.

Step 2: Remove the NEAR operator term from the search. Notice that the first result is not a result that would be as beneficial as the search including the NEAR expression. It is rather a personal question being asked instead of reliable source.

Step 9: 1.7 Asterisks (*)

Note: Asterisks are to be used as a placeholder. This is useful both as a wildcard search term or if the word needed has been forgotten. Simply add * where a word or phrase would normally go.

Step 1: Search “Congress voted on *” with the quotation marks. This term will search for all phrases starting with congress voted on, while allowing for any word in place of the asterisk.

Note: Remember from what you’ve learned earlier that without the quotation marks, the words in the search phrase can be scattered throughout the webpage rather than together

Step 10: 2. Tips for Non-Academic Google Searches

· Keep the searches simple. Boolean expressions are very helpful, but using too many is not practical.

· To further narrow searches, under the already-searched phrase in the search box, click on the “Search tools” tab. This allows you to search by things such as time, relevance, and location.

· To Google search within a website, try “site:[website URL]” and a word, or phrase, you would like to search within that website.

· To search by file type, try “filetype:[file type]” and a following word, or phrase you would like to search under that file type. Examples of file types include jpg, doc, ppt, and pdf.

· To define a word, try “define:[word]”

· To search the current weather, try “weather [zipcode or city]”

· To set a timer, try “set timer for [time]”

· To convert currencies or units, try “[first measurement] to [second measurement]”

Warning: Do not include the quotation marks or brackets in the searches.

· To search for something of money value, include a dollar sign ($) when necessary.

· Use an at symbol (@) to search for usernames within social media.

Step 11: 3. Tips for Online Academic Research

· It may not be recommended to research with primarily Wikipedia, but using Wikipedia is a great way to develop ideas for research.

· Use your school library’s website, your library’s online database, and Google Scholar.

· Use Boolean expressions for specific results

· Look into newer webpages. To do this on Google, click the “Search Tools” tab under the search bar (the phrase must be already-searched), then click “Any time” and select a time frame.

Step 12: 4. How to Use Google Scholar

Google scholar is located at This is Google’s excellent tool provided to research for academic purposes.

Step 13: 4.1 Utilizing "Advanced Search"

Step 1: Get to the main page of Google scholar. Click the down-facing arrow inside the right side of the search box. This will pop up a box with fields to narrow your search based on keywords, authors, published articles, and dates.

Step 2: Notice that when the search is already performed, the same pop up box can be found by clicking on the arrow underneath the search box. Then, click on “Advanced search” towards the bottom.

Step 3: Explore
the functions provided within this drop down box.

Step 4: Search by time and relevance under with the “Any time” tab

Step 5: View your citations and saved library under the “My Citations” and “My library” links

Step 6: Search through a specific school’s library by going to “Settings” and then “Library Links” on the new page

Step 14: 4.2 Utilizing "My Library"

Note: If signed into a Google account, it is possible to keep a library of your saved sources.

Step 1: To save a search result, click on the link named “Save” under the description of the search result (underlined in the image below). Click it, the source will then say “Saved” and can be found in your library.

Step 15: 4.3 Understanding Search Result Links

Step 1: Click the “Cited by 1755” link. This will lead you to a page with all the articles that have also cited the main source “Economics of Global Warming”

Step 2: Click the “Related articles” link. This will direct you to a page of articles related to the subject matter of “Economics of Global Warming”

Step 3: Click the “All 8 Versions” link. This will bring you to a page with results of the same article under various websites and file types.

Step 4: Click the “Cite” link. A pop-up box comes up with the MLA, APA, and Chicago citation. You can copy and paste either of these for academic purposes.

Step 5: The “More” link brings up further links such as “Library Search,” “Cached,” and “Fewer.”

Caution: Not always will the “More” link or all of the links under “More” will appear.

Step 6: Click the “Library Search” link. This allows for a search of the source on This website is an online network of library resources.

Step 7: Click the “Cached” link. This will display how the webpage looked like when it was last crawled by Google.

Step 8: Click the “Fewer” link. This simply shows less links - opposite of when the “More” link showed extra links.

Step 9: You now explored all of the links and learned their intended purposes!

Step 16: Conclusion

Taking advantage of search operators can great improve search results. Using tools such as ignoring words, specifying a phrase, searching only a specific site, or specifying a certain file type will help narrow search results and provide more resourceful information. Keeping it simple is always important, but using Boolean expressions and advanced search settings can help making finding the information being sought more efficient.