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Tips, tricks and resources to help you find that digital needle in the huge cyber-haystack.



Learning to navigate the World Wide Web effectively is an important skill, and there are lots of different ways for you to find the information you are looking for. Whilst the following list of tips and websites is by no means exhaustive – and we’ve missed out on some massive topics except travel, which deserve a post in their own right – they should be enough to get you started.

Using Google Operator Hacks

One of the things I love about Google is its clean layout – just type your query and hit enter. As well as the advanced search function, there are a load of operator hacks you can use to refine your search results. Check out the excellent Google Guide for a full list.

Here is a selection of some useful ones:

  • salsa -dance will find pages containing “salsa” but not “dance”
  • castle ~glossary will find pages containing glossaries and terminology related to “castle”
  • define:matador will bring up definitions of the word “matador”
  • ~crocodile will search for the word “crocodile” and similar words
  • lon sfo to book flights from London to San Francisco
  • delta flight 5778 to check the status of this flight
  • what time is it in New York to find out the time in this city
  • love site:www.matadornetwork.com/life to search only Matador Life for the word “love”
  • love -site:www.matadornetwork.com/life to exclude Matador Life results from your search for “love”

And don’t forget if you want to visit a site that is down, or that your company’s server won’t let you access, you can view the Cached version to see a Google snapshot of that page from when it was last crawled.

Photo by author.

Finally, if you’re fed up with all the annoying affiliate links clogging up the Google search results, check out Give Me Back My Google.

Online Research

Conducting online research is about more than just typing a few words into Google, even if you do know the operator hacks! There are a lot of resources out there to help you. Here’s how to find:

Biblical text: Find specific text from the Bible at BibleGateway.

Bibliography formatting: I’ve been using Easybib since my ninth-grade English teacher suggested it. Even if you know your style formatting from memory, this makes citing sources much easier with its instant ISBN lookup feature.

Books Online: Google Books has a surprising number of free books available online, and includes search features which are great for research. It’s also worth checking out Project Gutenberg, which has freely available digital copies of over 33,000 previously published titles.

Court Cases: LexisNexis has quite a few cases available for free.

Etymology: Find the root of any word at Etymoline.

Human Sources: Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a service that lets you connect with people around the world who can give you information or quotes on topics you are researching.

Newspapers: Newspapers dating back hundreds of years are available at the Google News Archives, but you can also use LexisNexis if you’ve got a subscription or can log on via a university network.

Primary Materials from Around the World: The UNESCO World Digital Library is a digital compendium of “significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.”

Scholarly Sources: Google Scholar is a compendium of thousands of research articles. Other good resources include the JSTOR database, and the excellent paid service, Questia.

And if you want to tap into the ‘digital brain’ of the Internet, use the twitter search feature and check out the most popular Google Insight stats to see what the online population are thinking about.

Note: If you are interested in learning more about research techniques and resources, the MatdorU New Media School has a Pro Module on How to Do Desk Research.

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