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Internet Searching

How to search the internet like an expert

Phrase Searching

One of the easiest ways to get more out of Google is to use what they call "Phrase Searching."

Normally, when you put words into the Google search bar, part of the search algorithm does look at how close together the words appear on the page, but it will also return any pages that have all of those words on them. However, if you put the words in quotes, it looks for those words as a unit, instead of looking for them anywhere on the page.

Say I'm looking for a quote by Catullus. All I remember of it is "I hate and I love." First, let's try it without quotes:

Searching without quotes

No, not so much. (Full disclosure: the quote did show up lower in the results page. This would have worked, just not very well.) Let's try it with the quotes:

Searching "i hate and i love" with quotes

Two out of the first three hits--as a great man once said, that ain't bad.

Google's SITE: operator

site: allows you to search within only a small piece of the internet. Say you want to search for information on study rooms at the library. You would type "study rooms" into the search box. (Never include the "www." That makes the search too specific and leaves out any sub-domains, like All of your results will come from

An example of searching just the Consortium Library

Google looks at the "site:" operator starting at the end and working backwards, meaning that, if you want to search all of the University of Alaska pages you can type "" into the search, but if you just want to search UAA, you can type "" Even better: you can actually search all educational institutions (not just Alaska), by using "site:edu." Searching with "site:edu" or "site:gov" is a popular trick to get [generally] more accurate information than searching the entire internet.

An example search of .gov

Google's Official Help


Wildcards- fill in the blanks

OK, so you know how to search for a multi-word term or a quote (above, "Phrase Searching"). But what if you can't remember one of the words? Google has a way around that; they call it a "wildcard," and all you have to do is put a * in the place of the word you can't remember.

One of my favorite poems has the lines "... and bid him whip / In kitchen cups concupiscent curds" But let's say--not too much of a stretch, here, right?--that I can't remember the word "concupiscent." 

"and bid him whip in kitchen cups * curds"

Bam. Google saved the day.

You can do this with multiple words, as well. I could have searched "and bid him whip in * cups * curds," and it would have worked just fine.