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Sharpening Your Query by using Google's Advanced Search Form

When you don't find what you're seeking, consider specifying more precisely what you want by using Google's Advanced Search feature. Don't be frightened by the name "Advanced Search"; it's easy to use, and it allows you to select or exclude pages with more precision than Google's standard search box. Click on the Advanced Search link at the right of Google's search box.

Screen shot pointing to the Advanced Search link on Google's home page.

or visit www.google.com/advanced_search and fill in the form. The Advanced Search form is automatically filled in with appropriate information from your previous query — if you entered a query just before you clicked on the Advanced Search link. If you searched for a phrase, the phrase appears in the phrase search box. If you restricted your search to a specific site or domain, the domain appears in the domain box.

Screen shot showing the Advanced Search fill-in form.

Filling in the top portion of the Advanced Search form is an easy way to write restricted queries without having to use the " ," +, -, OR notation discussed in the previous section Crafting Your Query.

Advanced Search
Find results
Basic Search
Example
Basic Search
Find results
 with all of the words tap dance ] with all search terms
 with the exact phrase "tap dance" ] with terms in quotes in the specified order only
 without the words tap -dance ]
-tap dance ]
including none of the terms preceded by a -
 with at least one of the words  tap OR ballet ] with at least one of the terms adjacent to OR

Let's look at some examples. If you click on the screen shots in this section, you'll be taken to the results of running the corresponding search.

The next part of the Advanced Search page lets you restrict the types of pages listed in your search results.

Specify more precisely what you want by using the Advanced Search fill-in form.

Next we'll look at each part of the form. If you want to jump ahead to a particular part, though, choose it from this list:

Now a detailed description of each part of the Advanced Search page:

Page-Specific Searches

The Advanced Search form also offers page-specific searches for finding pages similar to a page for which you have a web address (URL) and for finding out what pages link to a particular page.

Unlike the other fields in the Advanced Search form, the page-specific searches can't be combined with other query terms. Consequently each has its own Search button.

You can easily run these page-specific searches from Google's Toolbar, which is described in the section Making Google Easier with Google Tools.

Instead of going to the Advanced Search form, you can search for a web site by entering its address in the search box and Google returns a link to the website, as well as links to:

For example, to find out about the wonderful reference site www.refdesk.com, enter www.refdesk.com into Google's search box.

Google search box with the query [ www.refdesk.com ].  

Screen shot with results from search for [ www.refdesk.com ].

Alerts

Once you've refined your Advanced Search, you can watch for changes in the top 20 results by setting up Google Alerts. Google will find and deliver links to new web pages once a week, once a day, or as soon as Google finds them. Simply copy and paste your advanced search query into the search box on the Google Alerts page.

Google Ultimate Interface

If you want to specify what you're looking for with more precision than Google's Advanced Search form offers, try the Google Ultimate Interface, a third-party application available at www.faganfinder.com/google.html. With the Ultimate Interface you can:

Screen shot of the Google Ultimate Interface.

Michael Fagan developed Google Ultimate Interface when he was a teenager.

If you're not sure of all the types of information that you can search for with Google, check out Soople, www.soople.com/soople_int.php.

Screen shot of Soople, which shows many of the
        different types of searches Google supports.
I describe many of the capabilities included in Soople in Part II: Understanding Search Results and Part III: Special Tools.

Refining a Query

Refining a query means changing or adding to the set of search terms to do a better job of returning the pages you're seeking. Successful researchers frequently enter several queries to find what they're seeking.

The search boxes at the top and bottom of the results page show the query for the current results page. If the query uses special operators that you entered either directly or indirectly through the advanced search form, they will appear in the search box as well. To refine your query, edit what's in the search box and then click the "Google Search" button or hit the ENTER key.

Let's look at a few examples.

The following table presents suggestions to narrow or focus a search, as well as tips for broadening a search that has produced few useful results. Click on a link in the table to be taken to the section in Google Guide that describes features and ways to refine your query.

Too many results? Focus the search by... Too few results? Broaden the search by...
adding a word or phrase removing a word or phrase
specifying the order in which you want words to appear specifying words instead of phrases
using a more specific term using more general terms
identifying ineffective terms and removing them including synonyms or variant word forms or using a more common version of the word's spelling
limiting to a domain or site broadening the domain or searching the entire web
limiting to a date range or including a date removing a date range
limiting where terms occur removing redundant terms or splitting a multi-part query
restricting type of file searching any type of file
limiting pages to a particular language translating your search terms into other languages and searching for the translated terms
limiting pages to a particular country searching the entire web

For a tutorial on how to use Advanced Search, visit www.lib.monash.edu.au/vl/google/goog06.htm.

Anatomy of a Web Address

If you already know how to read a web address or URL (Universal Resource Locator, pronounced "you are ell"), skip this section. Otherwise, consider the hypothetical web address http://www.googleguide.com/searchEngines/google/searchLeader.html (which might list reasons why Google is a search leader). Here's what it all means:

http   transfer protocol (type of information being transferred)
www.googleguide.com    website name, host name
googleguide    second-level domain name
com    top-level domain name
searchEngines    directory name (major category)
google    sub-directory name (sub-category)
searchLeader    file name (a file within the directory)
html    file format

Here's a list of some common top-level domain names. Note that some sites don't follow these conventions:

.edu    educational site (usually a university or college)
.com    commercial business site
.gov    U.S. government/non-military site
.mil    U.S. military sites or agencies
.net    networks, Internet service providers, organizations 
.org    non-profit organizations and others

Because the Internet was created in the United States, "US" was not originally assigned to U.S. domain names; however, it's used to designate American state and local government hosts, including many public schools, and commercial entities, e.g., well.sf.ca.us. The domain .ca represents Canada, unless it's followed by .us, in which case it represents California.

Domain
Codes
  State
.ca.us  California
.nv.us  Nevada
.tx.us  Texas

Other countries have their own two letter codes as the top level of their domain names — although many non-US sites use other top-level domains (such as .com):

Domain
Codes
  Country
.ca    Canada  
.de    Germany  
.dk    Denmark  
.jp    Japan  
.il    Israel  
.uk    United Kingdom  
.za    South Africa  

To limit results to a single site or domain, specify the site name (e.g., www.googleguide.com or googleguide.com) or a top-level domain name (e.g., .com or .edu) in Google's domain selector.

Exercises

This problem set is designed to give you practice with specifying more precisely what you're seeking by using the Advanced Search form. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. What are some home remedies for getting rid of ants?

  2. Find facts about declawing cats.

  3. What is Google's privacy policy? How do I stop my previous queries from appearing when I type in a new search term?

  4. Some movie stars attend Botox parties. What goes on at such parties and why do they attend? Which stars have used Botox?

  5. When was Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio's (NPR) legal affairs correspondent, born, where was she educated, what degrees does she have? Did she attend law school?

  6. When you search Google for a URL, such as www.guardian.co.uk, what links are included with your results?

    What is shown in the search box when you click on the "Find web pages that contain the term "www.guardian.co.uk" link?

  7. What country has the domain code .at?

  8. What country has the domain code .bm?

  9. Run several queries on Soople.

  10. Run several queries simultaneously using Google Blaster.

This page was last modified on Monday January 27, 2014.


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