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Research Basics: Website Searching Tips

Search Google

Review our Search Strategies for tips on getting the most of your Google search results.

Google Web Search

Search Google Scholar

Google Scholar provides an easy way to search for scholarly literature across many disciplines and resources.

Google Scholar Search


To help you identify websites, see if there is a Subject Guide for your research topic. Internet resources are listed on the Websites tab.

If you cannot find a relevant subject guide, remember to evaluate the websites you find before you using them in your research assignments.

Google Search Tips

Searches are not case sensitive.

  • Keywords may be entered in lower or upper case or a combination of both.
  • Math, math, MATH
  • Exception: Boolean operator OR
    • Find apartments in Cambridge or Arlington Apartments
      • Cambridge OR Arlington
    • OR must be in caps.
    • Pipe symbol may be used instead of OR
      • Apartments Cambridge | Arlington
  • Boolean operator AND is assumed
    • Find apartments in Cambridge and Arlington
      • Apartments Cambridge Arlington

Need an exact word or phrase? Put it in quotation marks.

  • A query on "Barack Hussein Obama II" will retrieve only those sites that refer to Obama by his full name. Sites that refer to him as simply 'Barack Obama' may be overlooked.

Word order matters.

  • Google ranks the first word slightly higher than the second, the second slightly more than the third, etc.
    • music math (results are slightly different from the search math music)

Be descriptive. BUT:

  • Use as few terms as possible
  • Avoid natural language
    • Use Colorado statehood instead of when did Colorado first become a state

Google ignores most punctuation and symbols. Exceptions:

  • Dollar sign when used to indicate price.
    • canon $400 gives different results than canon 400.
  • Underscore or hyphen when used to connect words.
    • brother-in-law
    • end_of_file
  • Symbols when used to convey meaning such as a programming language (C++), musical terms (G#), etc.

Google uses automatic word stemming.

  • Google does not allow wildcards to be used for variable ends of words.
  • Instead, Google searches for all possible word variations.
    • Diet returns diets dieting dietary

To search within a specific website use the site: search command

  • If you search cloning you will only retrieve articles about cloning from the online version of the Wall Street Journal.
  • A query on cloning will only retrieve results within the government (.gov) domain.

Source: MIT Library Google Search Guide

More Google Tips

  • Determine what you're looking for.
  • Choose as many descriptive words as needed.
  • Too few words may give poor results.
  • Google search box accepts up to 32 words.