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Library DIY: Starting your Research

Get the most out of your Google search!

Google is probably one of the first places you go when you have a question or need information. Google feels easy to use and has a lot of sources - but often there are too many sources and it is hard to tell which are reliable.

Here are some tricks to make your Google searches more effective (these will work for other search engines too!)

Use the Advanced Search page

Did you know Google has an Advanced Search page?  You can use all the tips and tricks you've learned for searching library databases to search Google!

Google Advanced Search page with fields for Boolean searching and filters


Add a site type

Websites are assigned a domain (.com, .gov, .net) based on the type/purpose of that website. Did you know you can limit google results based on domain?

Add or to the end of your search to limit your results to resources published on educational or government domains. For example: "Incarceration rates"

.gov domains are assigned to government websites and can be useful resources for political, legal, and international topics. These sites also have large-scale research reports, particularly in the natural sciences and social sciences. Some results include peer-reviewed research that was federally funded.

.edu domains are assigned to college or university websites and may contain research publications (some peer-reviewed) as well as solid background information for a wide array of topics.

Remember: information found on .gov and .edu sites, just like any other information, is written for a specific audience with a specific purpose in mind. Although the information on .gov and .edu site can often be more credible in general, it is still important to critically evaluate your sources.


Add a document type

If you want to limit your search results to only those results that contain a PDF (so that you can view the full text of the source) you can add filetype:pdf to your search. You can also do this with other file types like .docx or .ppt.


Look for exact phrases and synonyms

Use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase. For example, searching "fast fashion" ensures that those two words will be searched together as a phrase.

Use a tilde ( ~ ) to search for synonyms or related words. For example, searching ~environment will return sources that use related words and phrases like sustainability, ecology, climate, etc.

This is also a great trick to use when you are developing keywords! If you aren't sure what synonyms or related words/concepts to add to your list, search your main keywords with a ~ in front of them and review the results that Google gives you.


Try google scholar

Google Scholar is a dedicated part of Google where you will primarily (not exclusively) find published and peer-reviewed material. It’s a great resource for finding new articles that you can then access through library databases.

It is important to keep in mind that Google Scholar will often take you to the paywall version. Find a resource that looks promising and then use the library databases to access it for free! (Remember, the library pays for subscriptions to journals so that you don't have to!)

*Please keep in mind that, despite the name, not everything on Google Scholar is a good scholarly source. Reach out to a librarian for help double-checking and evaluating your sources!*