So how do you improve your Google searches? To find better quality content (content from reputable sources, peer reviewed works, accurate information, etc), you need to know how to use the Google Search bar using the right search terms and format.
- Explicit Phrase: If you are looking for something like electoral college reform, you can make the search more precise by putting the phrase into quotes: "electoral college reform"
- Explicit site: Many sites and sources are, in fact, vetted and well-edited, like newspapers, television stations, magazines and other news sites as well as government research sources, universities, etc. So if you are looking for presidential election results, try focusing your search on an organization that did extensive work on the elections, say, The New York Times. So your search would be: site:nytimes.com presidential election results (NOTE: start your search with the word 'site' followed by colon and the site url with NO space)
- Explicit type of site: So you may want to limit your search to JUST government sites or government research sites. So if you wanted to do a search of polio studies, but wanted to see what government health sources had to say, you could set up your site this way: site:*.gov polio You could do the same thing with a search of academic materials or nonprofit organizations in the same way: site:*.edu or site:*.org
- Excluding words: Say you wanted to limit your search to exclude related but unwanted material. Say you wanted to look at how money was spent during the campaign but you wanted to exclude what was spent on advertising. To do this, use the "-" sign in front of the word you want to exclude. So your search might be: campaign spending -advertising
- Conversely, if you want to expand to use synonyms, put the "~" symbol in front of the related word or synonym
A good source for information on Google searches is Google: http://www.google.com/insidesearch/
When looking at websites themselves, you should perform the CRAP test to make sure the information is reliable. CRAP stands for Currency, Reliability, Authority, and Point of View/Purpose. Information provided by Champlain College.
- Currency: When was this resource published? Given your topic, will current or historical information be more useful? Maybe a mix of both to compare how things were then to how things are now?
- Reliability: Is this information balanced? What publisher is putting out this resource? Are there references listed or a bibliography telling you how the author is supporting his/her ideas?
- Authority: Who is this person writing this source, and why is what he/she says something you should care about? Have they written other articles on this topic? Are they thought of highly in their research communities?
- Purpose/Point of View: Is this fact or opinion? Is it biased, and if it is, in what way?
Go to the Champlain Library page for more information on CRAP testing: http://www.champlain.edu/academics/library/get-help/research-how-tos/eva...
[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]