The word ‘Google’ has become so ingrained in our language and culture that the phrase “Google it,” or “Let’s do a Google search” have become as ubiquitous as the oft-used “Make a Xerox of this,” or “Do a Nexis…”
Popular search engines like Bing, Google and Yahoo are limited in the amount and quality of the search results they return.
Their inability to crawl the content found in databases like LexisNexis Academic, and resources that are housed behind pay walls a la our J-School database list, or the New York Public Library’s electronic resources, or sites that require registration, makes more believable the estimates which suggest that Google searches less than half of what’s available on the web.
That said, all’s not lost if you employ savvy and strategy in your search; and whether you are using Google News or Google Scholar (which, by the way, is also a cool source for finding expert knowledge), the Google Advanced Search is an excellent starting point, especially if you consider yourself an average searcher.
Google Advanced Search
When you use Google’s advanced search page, the menu-driven search-building scheme is a great palette for mapping your search strategy; it assists your search by eliminating the need to remember Boolean connectors, or the use of ” ” to find phrases; you can also limit the quality and quantity of results by language, geography, and by specific types of websites or domains. Think of this page as a space where you can hone your search.
Of course, you’re always free to use the basic Google Search page to build a search strategy; just remember a few details:
- Use of the Boolean AND is no longer essential; Google interprets adjacent terms, e.g. budget deficit to mean budget AND deficit.
- Always use the OR in allcaps when using synonyms in your search.
- Use “ “ if you want Google to search for phrases or for words next to each other; “obesity rates” or “Hurricane Katrina.”
- If you are searching for an individual, be sure to allow for a middle name or initial to pop up in your search results; Ethan * Simon, Hillary * Clinton
- If you wish to limit your search to a particular website or domain, then your search strategy should look like this: “marc gasol” site:si.com or ebola site:.gov
- You can even do a bit of Nexis-like proximity searching; use AROUND (n) to link terms, e.g. SNAP AROUND 15 nutrition benefits site:.gov
Deep Web Search Engines
Find free, federal legislative information on THOMAS on the Web. Launched in 1995. Search by keyword or bill sponsor and find the latest status of legislation.
Rather than searching the web, Wolfram Alpha allows you to find your answer by performing dynamic computations. If you aren’t particularly strong at sorting out decimals and percentages and fractions then you will want to make this site a favorite. Great knowledge bank.
Looking for a repository of primary sources for text, audio, and video of American public speeches, debates and interviews? American Rhetoric provides transcripts of the top 100 speeches and is a cool addition to any virtual reference shelf.
The National Library of Medicine produces MedlinePlus reports reliable up-to-date information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues. You can also find out about clinical trials, and get links to the latest medical research.
Beyond Google – Finding Government Data and Statistics
Most of the nation’s primary economic indicators are produced by one of three federal statistics agencies – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Here’s a handy cheat sheet of which agency produces what data. Contact BEA’s subject matter experts
If you want to find out how the buying power of the dollar has changed over the years use this CPI Inflation Calculator.
The C.I.A. World Fact Book provides current facts on every geographic entity in the world – population, history, religion, politics, economy, literacy…
For all things population-related, stay connected to the Population Reference Bureau. The very popular World Population Data Sheet is loaded with useful social and demographic data on income, life expectancy, population, birth/death statistics, and more.
Beyond Google – Reports and Documents
Docuticker’s Docubase offers a frequently updated selection of reports from government agencies, NGOs, think tanks and other public interest organizations.
The Congressional Research Service provides reports to members of congress on a variety of current and relevant topics
Beyond Google – The War on Terror
Looking for statistics of military deaths and casualties in the recent Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan’s Operation Enduring Freedom? iCasualties provides detailed data, by month, year, cause and location.
Iraq Body Count is probably the best source available for verifying data on Iraqi civilian deaths and casualties after the invasion of Iraq in 2003