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Search Tips & Tricks

How to maximize your search results in library databases and Google!

Google Better

The better you express what you're searching for, the more likely you are to find it.

Google and the academic databases to which the Library subscribes share some search strategies in common, while Google also has some that are unique. Use these tips to make Google work better for you.


Search Methods: Google and Academic Databases

Symbols to make your search more accurate, which can be used in most databases. Classic operators: and/or/or not
AND brings back results that include both terms listed. However, Google reads "and" between all the words in a search string automatically, so you do not need to use it in a Google search.
Expand your search to all of the results for your terms.
potato OR chip
- (minus) symbol: If you want to exclude a term, links, or sites to make your search results more specific to your needs.
potato NOT chip


While in many databases the asterisk allows for the searching of different spellings of a word (cat* = cat, cats, catch, etc), Google includes the different spellings automatically in a search, so the wildcard search here is for full words and terms rather than within a word.
* (asterisk)
Use as a place holder for an unknown word or term.

four *, seven years ago 

Exact Term
A search method you can use almost anywhere!
Put quotes around a multi-word term brings back the exact term in word order.

"potato chip"

Search Methods: Google Only


Only search on certain sites. Use an asterisk to search for all sites with a particular domain.

potato site:nytimes  = Posts from the NY Times that mention Afghanistan

potato –  = Results about potatoes but NOT any from

potato site:*.gov  = Results about potatoes from government sites/agencies


Search for sites link to a certain URL



Get information about the url and related sites to your search. Can include cache information too.




Look for a particular type of file like pdf, jpg, png, etc.

potato filetype:pdf


Look for a word in the title.



@ #

Social media searches.



You can combine any of these operators with a space to get results. Try:

potato intitle:chip filetype:pdf
"potato chip" intitle:bag filetype:pdf

How Does Google Work?

Google's search engine is the result of years of work and refinement by the company.

Here's a short introduction to how it works (though with the very positive attitude you'd expect from a company talking about itself and not a lot of reflection).

Searching the Internet

The internet is a wild place; here is some useful info to help you search it better.


Search Engines

Search Tips