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Google and Google Scholar: Google

A guide on how to use Google and Google Scholar effectively.

Search tips for a basic Google search

  1. Phrases
    Use quotation marks around two or more words that form a phrase. This is especially useful when searching for a person or the title of a book, a movie or a journal article.
    Example: "Julius Malema"; "South Africa"; "Lord of the Rings"
    BUT: By insisting on phrase search you might be missing good results accidentally. For example, a search for [ "Alexander Bell" ] (with quotes) will miss the pages that refer to Alexander Graham Bell.
  2. Search single word exactly as is ("")
    Google employs synonyms automatically, so that it finds pages that mention, for example, childcare for the query [ child care ] (with a space), or California history for the query [ ca history ]. But sometimes Google helps out a little too much and gives you a synonym when you don't really want it. By putting double quotes around a single word, you are telling Google to match that word precisely as you typed it.
  3. Exclude
    Use a hyphen or minus symbol (-) in front of words you want to exclude from your search.
    Example: "alternative energy" -solar 
    You can exclude as many words as you want by using the - sign in front of all of them
    Example: sharks -rugby -loans
    The - sign can be used to exclude more than just words. For example, place a hyphen before the 'site:' operator (without a space) to exclude a specific site from your search results.
  4. The OR operator
    Google's default behaviour is to consider all the words in a search. If you want to specifically allow either one of several words, you can use the OR operator (note that you have to type 'OR' in ALL CAPS). For example, [Bafana Bafana 2010 OR 2011] will give you results about either one of these years, whereas [Bafana Bafana 2010 2011 ] (without the OR) will show pages that include both years on the same page.
  5. Synonyms
    Use the ~ sign to include synonyms in your search.
    Example: ~eggplant will also include aubergine in the results.
  6. Fill in the blanks (*)
    The *, or wildcard, is used as a placeholder for any unknown term(s).
    Example: "lord of the rings" was written by *; nelson * mandela (if you want to know what his second name is)
  7. Define
    Use "define" to get a definition of a word or abbreviation.
    Example: define: hip hop
  8. Site Search
    Did you know that you can restrict your search to just one specific site? This kind of search comes in handy when you are pretty sure the information exists on a site, but you can’t find it. To use it, enter your search term(s) and site:sitedomain.
    Example: plagiarism
    The - sign can also be used to exclude a specific site from your search results.

Are you using Google effectively?

Search tools and filters

Search Tools and Filters will appear on your results page after you've searched. With them you can narrow down your search to maps, videos, books, social and much more. It's a great time saver. Remember to click on More and on Search tools for more options.

Under More you will be able to limit your results to videos, news, blogs, discussions, apps, etc.

Under Search tools you can specify that you want to see pages from South Africa only, pages published within a certain time frame, or you can limit your search results to a specific reading level.

For more help on Search tools and filters go to Google Support.

Specialized searches

Use the specialized searches above the search box. Selecting any of these will narrow down your search to just images, videos, etc. Click on More for more specialized searches and other features.


Google Web Search