Become a Sophisticated Searcher
By Judith Maginnis Kuster
Every three years since 2002, this column has focused on special search features, including ways to use the most popular search engine -- Google (www.google.com) -- more effectively. Much of the information in these articles is still relevant and worth reviewing.
In "Uncovering Google Goodies" The ASHA Leader, March 19, 2002, (www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster4/part40.html) I highlighted several important Google features, including the huge archive of Usenet Newsgroups dating back to 1981 (http://groups.google.com), the specialized searching for professional treasures by using a +pdf or +ppt after a keyword, and a mega catalog which morphed first to "froogle" and now to "product search" (www.google.com/prdhp?hl=en&tab=wf).
Three years later, "Have You Googled Lately?", (The ASHA Leader, November 29, 2005 (www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster4/part67.html) featured Google News (http://news.google.com), Google Print (http://print.google.com), Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/), Google Maps (http://maps.google.com), the important "cache" feature, limiting a search by domains, the translation feature (www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en) and image (http://image.google.com) and video (http://video.google.com) search.
A current search of Google video quickly uncovers many gems, including:
Google continues to expand service in amazing ways.
- Limit your search to government documents at www.google.com/ig/usgov. For example, the key words: "spasmodic dysphonia" +"genetics" yields 202 government sites with those terms.
- Google's "gmail" features a good spam filter, mobile access, and at the time this column was written, "over 6593.566149 megabytes of free storage" (follow the link at the top of the main Google web page).
- A built-in calculator (www.google.com/help/calculator.html for instructions) will solve mathematical equations and convert units of measurement, money and other quantities:
- 20 cm to inches (7.87401575 inches)
- 25 cc to ounces (0.845350568 US fluid ounces)
- 25 USD to Euros (15.9245812 Euros on the day I searched)
- half a cup to teaspoons (24 US teaspoons)
- add (32+59), subtract (44-38), multiply (72*81) and divide (125/7)
- A search within a range of numbers by adding two dots with no spaces will uncover dictionaries within that price range ("medical dictionary" $25..35)
- Expand a topic search by determining who is linked to an exceptional site you found (I discovered nearly 2000 links to the ASHA web site.by entering: link:www.asha.org
- Another suggestion is to find related sites. By entering related:www.asha.org I discovered 30 links to professional web sites such as National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (www.nsslha.org), The Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (www.caslpa.ca), and the National Association of the Deaf (www.nad.org). I found those same "hits" by opening the similar link following the ASHA site listing in Google.
- Google provides a quick way to find definitions.
define "evidence based practice"
yields over 333,000 Web sites, some of which will provide a good definition.
The same entry from Wikipedia produces a single definition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_based_practice)
Sear ch Strategies
Features of a search engine are important, but so are search strategies. A significant part of effective searching is understanding Boolean search strategies.
- AND - Some search engines use the plus sign (+). With Google, the "and" is implied and it requires the search terms to appear somewhere in the Web site. That means unless you use quotation marks around search terms, Google will list all of the sites in its database with any of the key words, somewhere on the site.
- NOT - Some search engines use the minus sign (-). This strategy excludes the word/s after the "not" or minus sign. For example, to find information about memory loss without getting web sites about Alzheimer's, the search terms would be "memory loss" -Alzheimer's
- OR (which must be in caps) - Requires at least one of the terms to be present and is a good strategy to use when there may be synonyms or different spellings, For example
- "communication disorders" OR "communicative disorders"
- dysfluency OR disfluency
- "Judy Kuster" OR "Judith Kuster" OR "Judith Maginnis Kuster" OR "Judy Maginnis Kuster"
Another way to search for varying spellings and synonyms is to use the "tilde" (~) before the search term. For example, ASHA ~conference will uncover sites with the terms ASHA conference, but also will find ASHA convention. Adding a * in a search will produce additional references when searching, for example, an author's name. Check Nan Bernstein Ratner by entering "Nan Ratner" (975 hits) vs. "Nan * Ratner" (which will automatically enter either B. or Bernstein and produces 80,500 hits).
Finally, use several keywords to make your search as specific as possible. Be sure to use quotation marks for names or phrases. For example:
- stuttering therapy - yields 110,000 hits
- "stuttering therapy" - 50,800 hits
- "stuttering therapy" private - 4,170 hits
- "stuttering therapy" private Pennsylvania - 1150 hits
- "stuttering therapy" private "Pittsburgh Pennsylvania" - 22 hits
- "stuttering therapy" private "Pittsburgh Pennsylvania" "preschool children" - 2 hits
Judith Kuster is a professor in the Department of Speech, Hearing, and Rehabilitation Services at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. All of Kuster's Internet columns are available in HTML format with active links (www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster4/leader.html), although URLs change and there is no guarantee that links from previous articles are still functional.
Kuster, JM, Become a Sophisticated Searcher, ASHA Leader, July 15, 2008, p. 44-45.