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Photo by Dullhunk

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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About The Author

Jason Wire

Jason Wire graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2010 and spent the year after writing and teaching English in Spain. He's back in the states now, but doesn't know where. Follow him @wirejr.

  • http://vagabonderz.com Carlo Alcos

    For someone who spends as much time on the Internet as I do, I am embarrassingly ignorant of what’s out there and how to find it. This is a sweet post that I’ll be bookmarking and referring to. Those Google operators are cool.

    • http://live-your-love.com Brankica

      Well, I need to say the same thing as Carlo. I spend so much time online but must admit I obviously didn’t know how to maximize my search efforts. Guess I will know better from now on!
      Great post, Jason, and a great photo at the beginning :)

  • Kathy

    Great tips! I knew some of the Google hacks but not all of them. Can I put in a plug for my profession, under “Human Sources”?–ask a librarian!

    And in terms of good free stuff, the government has loads of it (not exactly free, since you DO pay for it if you file your taxes :-) ). USA.gov is a good starting place. And, JSTOR is wonderful but it is *definitely* not free, although if you can get it thru your university you might not realize how much they had to pay for it.

    • http://thisopenroad.wordpress.com/ Robyn

      Also a librarian! same with public libraries – if you can access your home library’s account, then you can still get to their databases, or at least some of them. Your library may allow access from any computer but some databases can only be accessed from within the library.

  • http://www.sarah-park.com Sarah

    Oooh, I am worth $2,424,512. Good to know.

  • http://wayworded.blogspot.com/ Hal Amen

    Jason, you’re the master of writing posts that wind up in my bookmarks.

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/nickrowlands Nick Rowlands

    These are great, Jason, love the operator hacks and the research resources. And for what it’s worth, an anagram of my name is “a clown drinks”!!!

  • http://vagabonderz.com Carlo Alcos

    Rascal Loco for me. Crazy dog!

  • http://wandersofmediocrity.blogspot.com Nedemgirl

    I can’t get enough of Google Books and Google Scholar.

  • Wanni Tjin

    This is wonderfully great help for people like me who get lost while searching. I got the feeling that the Internet is full off information I cannot find. Your blog is a light in my darkness. Thank you.

  • http://www.clevertimesheets.com Slav

    yeah you can find anything on google – you also get used to searching instead of trying to remember ;)

    I got myself in trouble last week – googling to see if my wife is right….

    • Jim Jones

      Just remember that your wife is ALWAYS right. This will save you time, and trouble in the future.

  • jp

    What do the rest of us without that squiggle character on our keyboards do? Used to be +parameter; when did it change to a key most english keyboards do not have?

    • Stephen

      that little squiggle is on literally every keyboard unless you broke yours off. look to the left of the number 1 ~ is right next to it see~ ~~~~ just like these !@#$%^&*() all you have to do is hit shift

  • http://theeasyapi.com Chad R. Smith

    I’ve always wondered why my Parakeet wouldn’t eat my diarrhea as well! Ok, really though this is a great article on how to utilize the “hidden” features of Google. Using the – param is probably my favorite when looking for API’s to incorporate into The Easy API – http://theeasyapi.com – that way I can find API’s that need some attention and incorporate them into the system. It also allows me to get items that don’t contain specific elements that I have already incorporated.

    Great article and I learned about using the tilde in the search. That’s something I didn’t know before reading this. Very cool.

  • http://www.4golfonline.com Galvin Green

    great post the google smart finds are so cool. I am always using define: great post

  • http://levinsonlawfirm.com cary

    i’ve used a few of the editor ‘tricks’ before, they work great…but I was unaware of some of the others…is it possible that google will be even more useful now?!?!?!

  • Paul

    Cool article. Just a quick note: EasyBib is only free for MLA formatting. If you want APA, they make you pay. Instead, I’d recommend BibMe (http://www.bibme.org/) which is basically a fully-free version of EasyBib.

  • russ

    Quotes are an absolute must when it comes to finding things.
    How could you forget filetype: ?
    Searching filetype:pdf, or filetype:torrent has found me so many torrents and pdf files that you couldn’t find elsewhere.

    Note, if you use filetype:pdf, I’d recommend going to amazon or something and looking inside the book, and grab some text from inside, then search
    filetype:pdf “the text inside the book”

    If the pdf exists, chances are this will find it.

  • Rachel

    Must… fave… this… NOW!!!

    This is going to help me SO much once I get into high school! Thank you Jason Wire!

  • Justin Lee Tyler

    Don’t forget http://www.worldcat.org ! Certainly, if you want a book that’s not available in google books or elsewhere, that’s the place to look.

  • Matt

    As far video… there’s also video.nytimes.com

    Also, there’s something i really like about audio slideshows as well… here’s one on the Iron Triangle: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/khtml/2004/02/28/nyregion/20040228_JUNK_AUDIOSS.html

    Check out more at http://www.google.com/search?q=audio+slideshow+site:nytimes.com

  • Matt

    oh yea… and don’t forget Tineye.com and the rest of the reverse image search tools http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_CBIR_Engines

  • Gillian

    Oh dear – my anagram is “Diurnal Girl”!!! Nothing could be further from the truth – I’m a total night owl! :-)

  • Anndf2

    if you want some weird stories check out http://www.absurdstories.com

  • Guest

    that is cool website i have saved google pic
    and will show on my fb wall

  • http://www.technodo.com/ Andrew

    Great stuff, the operator hacks are definitely great to know. Plus, I never knew about GMBMG,  didn’t know you could get rid of the affiliate stuff. I’ll add that I helped many a friend using http://lmgtfy.com/ ;)

  • http://www.offertalk.in/ Prashant Chourdia

    great post the google smart finds are so cool. I am always using define: nice post 

  • Joe_Wolf

    dont forget this one

    weather zip code/city/county/country (for the small ones)

    For instant weather.

  • http://saluxjiras.it/ Saluxjiras

    Great guide!

  • FrankPerez123

    Con todo respeto quiero darme este espacio y dar este video para los que les gusta ver peliculas! bueno el video :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FatgdWgXSog MUCHAS GRACIAS

  • FrankPerez123

    Con todo respeto quiero darme este espacio y dar este video para los que les gusta ver peliculas! bueno el video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FatgdWgXSog  MUCHAS GRACIAS

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003761204562 Fead Efra

    hola!!

  • Chrispy

    Another one I use is if I’m searching specifically for a .png or a .gif file, you can type what you’re searching for followed by filetype:png or filetype:gif or whatever the filetype you’re looking for. Pretty useful, especially when searching for logos and icons with transparent backgrounds. No .jpg file has transparency, so I look for .png and .gif for those.

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