Teaching Advanced Google

by Laurie Claywell

Don MacLeod, manager of knowledge management at Debevoise & Plimpton, pointed out at the beginning of the sitting-in-the-aisle room only PLL-SIS program Teaching Advanced Google that our patrons are going to use Google so we might as well help them to get the most from it. I confess I felt a little better hearing him say that out loud since I had come to the same what I thought of as defeated conclusion about a year ago. (The words “really…really?” are frequently poised on my lips when someone says “ok, I’ve checked Google but not sure where to look next.”) Don is right. They’re going to use it so let’s help them to ask a better question. Basic Google is good but Advance Search gives a shorter list with more relevant hits.

To find Advance Search, click on the Options gear icon in upper right corner, then click on Advance Search. Don referred us to the Advance Search tips available as a link on this page (upper right corner).

The syntax tools and filters are great options for forcing and eliminating search terms. A user can take advantage of the Advance Search template or, alternatively, just memorize the syntax tools, i.e., + [search for the literal term], - [eliminate term from the search] , ~ [employ synonyms; our speaker didn’t see a lot of need for more search terms but I can see where it would be useful for things like cellular/wireless/mobile or property/land/real estate], and, lastly, site: [site search](my favorite, too, Don!) A site search allows you to target a specific web site. It’s a good way to dig down on a specific site or to pick up on items that don’t get hits using a site’s sometimes less than adequate search feature.

Other very useful features are the built-in reference tools [what time is it in “x”; currency converter; calculator (5*9)+3 ]. The complete list of tools is on the Advance Search tips page -- click on “special search features.”

Another useful tool was actually pointed out by someone in the audience. He advised us that neutral results can be obtained by inserting Pws=0& after the question mark in the Google search results string. From what I have heard, it may not work with Google Instant so you may want to consider turning off Instant if you want neutralized results. Another option for turning on and off personalized search:

1. Log out if you are logged into a Google account. It should simply say Sign In with no mention of your name in the upper right hand corner.

2. Click on the gear icon on a search results page and select Web History. [the Web History choice seems to appear only on the results page, not the Google home page]

3. Select ”Disable customizations based on Web History.”

I think the frequent excited murmuring of “oh!” and subsequent furious scribbling from those around me during this program is what gave me the greatest insight: what we may take for granted may be new to others. I was reminded to not assume my users know about these tools. Posting tips on the library’s intranet page isn’t enough – hence the need for this PLL SIS program. We need to teach sessions on using Google effectively – ‘cause they’re going to use it. Really.

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