It is safe to say that most students use Google numerous times per day.   In fact, after analyzing the 2012 national EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) Study for Tufts University, it is clear that students find that Google is one of the most important websites for their academic success.  However, when it comes to trying to perform the best web searches, particularly for research, searches are most effective when “search operators” are included.

Some of the more commonly known search operators include the following:

  • First, site: followed by a website URL (with no space in between) filters results to only include pages on the specified site.
  • Quotation marks (i.e. “ “) around a phrase will search for that exact phrase, rather than each of the words separately.
  • A minus sign (i.e. -) followed by a particular term will exclude that term from the search.

However, some other search operators that may be less familiar include:

  •  A tilde symbol (~) followed by a word will also search for related words, rather than specifically that term.
  • A range of two years with two periods (..) in between will narrow the results to the designated timeframe.
  • Entering filetype: followed by a file type (e.g. pdf, doc, jpg, etc.) will narrow the results to the file type designated.
  • Entering intitle: followed by a word will filter results to only include pages for which the word is in the title (otherwise, results for which the word is anywhere on the page are included).

Although remembering to use these operators may be frustrating at first when it may seem so much easier to just type out the topic of your search in plain words, understanding these best practices to web searching can actually be very helpful in finding the most useful information.

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