Research Help

Research Help Tutorial:
Advanced Web Searching

Text Version

While using a normal Google search is enough for some things, searching for reliable sources takes a bit more work. Luckily, Google has provided the tools you need to perform this kind of search in its "Advanced Search" interface. The "Advanced Search" page is accessible via a link located to the right of the search bar on the Google homepage. You can still do a normal search from this page, but you can also perform some unique and powerful searches as well. This tutorial will look at the different features of "Advance Search" and how they can help you.

All these words:
The "All these word" search is the standard Google search, and will give you the same results as if you'd used the main Google page. For instance, if you conduct an "all these words" search for "Ernest Hemingway," you would get exactly the same results as you would from entering "Ernest Hemmingway into the search box on the Google homepage.

This exact wording or phrase:
The "This exact wording or phrase" search yields the same results as putting a regular search phrase in quotation marks. If your search includes many short, common words, searching them as a phrase delivers better results.

For example, let's say you want to do a search for the line "to be or not to be" from Hamlet. This phrase is made up entirely of small, common words, so it's likely that many pages that have nothing to do with Hamlet will have those words in it. Completing a "this exact wording or phrase" search for "to be or not to be," yields two million search results. That may sound like it is a lot of results, however, a regular Google search brings back over a billion pages!

One or more of these words:
Searching within the "One or more of these words" box This is the same as typing OR between your search terms in a regular Google search. This is useful if what you're searching for a topic that can be called by several names, if you're searching for multiple things at once, or if you want to increase the number of hits you get.

For example, if we run a search for anorexia OR bulimia OR "eating disorder," we get a lot of results. Google has pulled in everything that has one or more of those terms. A regular Google search for those words brings fewer hits, but since we're trying to expand the number of hits we get in this case, it isn't necessarily a good thing.

Any of these unwanted words:
The "Any of these unwanted words" search is the same as putting a minus sign in front of words you don't want searched in the regular Google search. A minus sign means you don't want that word to appear in what your search brings back.

For example, let's say you wanted to find out places where "to be or not to be" has been used outside of Shakespeare and Hamlet. Enter "to be or not to be" in the "this exact word or phrase" box we used before, only this time include "Shakespeare" in the "any of these unwanted words" box.

The search results include pages that have the phrase but not its most famous user. Compare this with a regular phrase search for "to be or not to be." The results are quite different!

Search within a site or domain:
The "Search within a site or domain" box lets you limit your search to a specific group of websites or even an entire domain. For instance, by entering "" into the search box, we've told Google to only search the "" web site. If we run a web site search with no other search terms, Google brings back everything from that site.

A domain is signified by the letters at the end of a web address. <.edu> and <.gov> are generally more reliable as sources than <.com> or <.net> since they are limited to educational and government sites. For the most reliable internet sources, try limiting your search to the <.edu> or <.gov> domains.

Let's try a search on William Faulkner limited just to the <.edu> domain. This is like a regular Google search, but Google is only searching for our terms in sites that end in <.edu>. The results are generally very good for research, including Faulkner pages at Ole Miss, the Faulkner society, and the Faulkner archive at the University of Virginia.

Using these advanced Google searches is easy, and they can lead to better results. Still, you will need to learn how to evaluate a web site in order to tell if your results are reliable; see the evaluating web sites tutorial for more information.