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Better Google Searches for Writers February 2, 2013

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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Hands down, the Internet beats the old days when writers had to go to the library to research a topic. Now anyone can retrieve information with a few computer clicks. I frequently use Google in my searches and have discovered the following ways to improve results:

  • Use the asterisk (*) as a wild card with the words you’re searching. For example, if you wanted to search for me on the Web but couldn’t remember my last name but knew I was a children’s author, you could type Ronica * children’s author and related sites would pop up, providing my last name.
  • Use the minus sign before words you want to exclude from the search. Using a similar example, if you searched solely on my first name, Ronica, and a bunch of “Ronica Smith” sites showed up, you could eliminate Ronica Smith from your search by typing Ronica -Smith.
  • Put quotation marks around a word or two (such as “Ronica Stromberg”) to pull up sites only with the word (or words) as quoted.
  • To find the word you’re searching for on a Web site that came up, hit Control-F (Command-F on a Mac) and enter the word you’re searching for again. This will highlight the word you’re searching for. I’ve found this useful when a Web site has page after page of text but no clear indication where the word or phrase I’m searching for may be.
  • To restrict search results to a specific URL, add site: in front of the URL. For example, dognapper site:nytimes.com would pull articles printed about dognappers at The New York Times domain.
  • To find sites similar to one you’re using, type related: before the URL of the site (as in related:nytimes.com).
  • Use two periods between numeric ranges to find information about a range. For example, if you wanted to find information about gasoline prices between 1970 and 1980, you could type gasoline prices 1970 . . 1980. Writers of historical novels may find this particularly useful for research.
  • To use Google as a dictionary and look up the definition of a word, type define: immediately followed by the word.
  • To find the current weather in a town (in case you are about to set off on a book talk or other trip), type weather in followed by the town’s name.
  • To convert currency or measurements, use search formats such as 50 pesos in US dollars or 100 kilometers in miles.
  • To find the title of a song that lyrics come from, type some of the more distinct lyrics followed by :lyric. For example, when I type want to be a paperback writer:lyric, several sites appear, letting me know this line of lyrics comes from the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” song.
  • To get alerted about breaking news on a topic, go to http://www.google.com/alerts and enter the topic and your e-mail address. Google will then e-mail you the next time news on the topic appears on the Internet. I know a lot of authors type their name or key words from their works into this site to track online publicity and, also, to check whether their writing is being plagiarized.

Instead of doing a general search of the whole Internet, I may have only a specific area I want to search. The following are my favorites.

blogs     http://www.google.com/blogsearch

books     http://books.google.com/

finance     http://www.google.com/finance  This search of the latest financial news may be of particular interest to business and financial writers.

images     http://images.google.com  This site can be misleading. When I searched on “F. Scott Fitzgerald,” the name of one of my favorite authors, photos of him–and a bunch of other people–cropped up. Had I not already known what F. Scott Fitzgerald looked like, the site wouldn’t have helped much.

news     http://news.google.com/

patents     http://www.google.com/?tbm=pts

scholarly works   http://scholar.google.com/

videos     http://www.google.com/videohp

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