Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beyond Google

I happen to love Google. I was impressed when I first tried it: it was quicker than I had ever seen (back then, my preferred search engine was Altavista, which has pretty much been forgotten except for their Babelfish translator.)

Google also has some neat features and tips that can make searching easier.
  • Putting quotes around a phrase searches for that exact phrase. It's especially useful when the phrase is made up of common words. Also, it forces Google to pay attention to punctuation: looking for Connect-Ed will only get you the word "connected," but if you put quotes around it, it will go to the Connect-Ed site.
  • The minus sign has Google ignore a word. This can be useful if there are more than one versions of something. For instance, "Once a hero -moon" will focus on the TV show, not the Elizabeth Moon novel.
  • Similarly, the plus sign forces a term to be in the results.

But Google isn't perfect. One issue is that you can never tell about how legitimate a site might be, and they sites you find may not have the right information for an academic paper. There are several options: