Google Search Techniques

Disclaimer: Using Google to search the Internet will locate resources that are available to the public. While these resources are good for some purposes, serious research and academic work often requires access to databases, articles and books that, if they are available online, are only accessible by subscription. Fortunately, the UMass Library subscribes to most of these services. To access these resources online, go to the UMass Library Web site ( For the best possible help finding information on any topic, talk to a reference librarian in person. They can help you find the resources you need and can teach you some fantastic techniques for doing your own searches.

For a complete guide to Google’s features go to

Simple Search Strategies

Google keeps the specifics of its page-ranking techniques secret, but here are a few things we know about what makes pages appear at the top of your search:
-   your search terms appears in the title of the web page
-   your search terms appear in links that lead to that page
-   your search terms appear in the content of the page (especially in headers)
When you choose the search terms you enter into Google, think about the titles you would expect to see on these pages or that you would see in links to these pages. The more well-known your search target, the more easy it will be to find. Obscure topics or topics that share terms with more common topics will take more work to find.

Enter a single word

Enter the one word that you associate with your topic. Typically this will return too many results (unless the term is a commercial trademark and you are looking for the company’s web site).

Enter several words

When you enter more than one word, Google assumes you want pages with ALL of these words present. This also often returns too many results. The pages you get will have all the words in any order, and they may or may not be near each other. For example, if you enter a first and last name, you may get some pages of the person you seek, but unless they are very well known, you will also get pages where a list of names contains one person with the first name and another person with the last name.
Note: Google will exclude common words (“where”) and single letters and numbers (“A” or “2”) to speed up your search if these are essential to finding what you need, see below for ways to make sure they are included.

Enter a phrase in quotes

This is the most effective way to limit a search. Google will return pages with these words in this exact order. This is good if you are searching for a specific phrase (“PowerPoint is Evil”) a name, (“Edward Tufte”) or if there is a sentence that you would associate with the page you seek (“How to use PowerPoint”). Quotes will also force Google to search for excluded terms.“I Feel Lucky” takes you to the top item in the search

If you use Google to find sites that you know are popular (such as the Apple Web site), you can click the “I Feel Lucky” link to bypass the search results and go straight to the top of the list. While this works well for commercial sites, it is less certain for other searches. Some practical jokesters have exploited this feature (try searching for “weapons of mass destruction”).

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