Have you ever wondered why a librarian is able to find the source that you spent hours searching for? Yes, part of it is the years we’ve spent practicing, but every librarian has a few favorite shortcuts for streamlining the sometimes frustrating process of finding information. Here are a few of your Kirkwood librarian’s favorites:
1. Put double quotes around a phrase or set of words that you want the search engine to look for in just that order. For example, if you are looking for an article on the author of the Hunger Games, enter your search as “Suzanne Collins.” Otherwise, you will get lots of results on women named Suzanne and people with the last name of Collins! This also works with phrases like “cell phones” and “school lunches.”
2. Use the minus sign to eliminate irrelevant sites. For example, if you are writing a paper on tigers, search for: tiger -Woods -Detroit
3. Your composition instructor might worry about capitalization and punctuation, but Google doesn’t. Search for “Cedar Rapids, Iowa” and then “cedar rapids iowa” and your results will be the same.
4. When you want to find the most reliable information, limit your search to finding only government and education sites by using site:.edu OR site:.gov. This eliminates all the websites that might be trying to sell you their products or convince you of their point of view.
A good example: “Lyme disease” site:.gov OR canine “hip dysplasia” site:.edu
A study by Howard and Massanari (2007) found that one-third of adults ran out of time and gave up looking for the information they were searching for, so if your time is valuable, and whose isn’t, using these simple tricks will have you writing that A+ paper in no time.
Howard, P. & Massanari, A. (2007). Learning to search and searching to learn: Income, education, and experience online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(3), article 5. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00353.x/pdf