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How to Search and Use Google Effectively: Home

About the Web

The web is limitless. Anyone can publish on it. There is no review of its content.
Search engines like Google use complicated algorithms retrieving and returning results based on your previous searches, the device you’re searching from, your geographic location, what it thinks you want based on what is popular, how many other pages link to a website, and other nebulous criteria (Google’s algorithms are proprietary). 
This leads us to three questions:

  • How do you search most effectively when you don’t know what the search rules are?
  • How do you know what type of website or information you are looking at?
  • How do you know if the website or information is any good?
     

Searching the Web

Search a specific domain, i.e., site:edu

Search a subset of Google

Use Google Advanced Search

Use specific keywords (nouns preferable), leave off stop words, which are small or meaningless words such as: a, an , the, that, are

Use the same techniques recommended for searching library databases.
 

What is It?

Look for clues: Domain Names
        .com    Commercial websites
        .edu    Institutions of higher education in the U.S., including student’s pages.
        .gov    Published by the U.S. Gov’t. Considered credible, good for statistics.
        .net    Originally intended for network technologies. Not seen often. i.e., att.net
        .org    Used to be solely for non-profits. Can be biased. Check about page.
        .mil    Published by the U.S. military. Rarely see these.
        .ca, .ru, .au    Country codes. Will see as co.uk (United Kingdom).


Does the site also exist in a print version? For example, magazines and newspapers often have online versions of their print sources. Also, reference sources often have websites where basic content is free, and additional content is available for a fee. An example is the Oxford English Dictionary. These sites typically end in .com. 


Is the site labeled as a blog? These are personal sites and are not appropriate sources for most college research.
Avoid sites identified in the upper left corner as “ad”.


Wikipedia entry for Website lists 50+ types of websites. It is not necessary to know all of them. It is only necessary to know a site’s purpose. Conjure Sherlock Holmes and do some sleuthing.   
Is the site:

  • Selling you something
  • Making you think something
  • Making you feel something
  • Entertaining you
  • Informing you
  • Deceiving you

All websites are probably created to do one or more of the above. If someone created a website, they had a reason to do so.