Improve your Googling skills: Part I

Improve your Googling skills: Part I

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Have you ever searched for something on the internet and not been able to find what you need or ended up with too many search results? If so, here are a few tips on how to use punctuation marks and search operators to refine your search in Google.


Exact word or phrase

To find all web pages that contain the exact word or phrase, enclose it in quotation marks.

Phrase with a missing word

You can use the asterisk symbol as a wildcard when you search using quotation marks.

In this example, the search results will include pages containing the phrases digital skills in higher education, digital skills in traditional secondary education, etc.

Exclude word or phrase

If you want to exclude a particular word, place a minus sign before it.  And if you want to exclude a specific phrase, put a minus sign and then enter the phrase in quotes. You can exclude as many words and phrases as you wish, just add a minus sign in front of each term you want to omit.
In this example, Google will find all pages that contain the words technology and education and exclude the word conference.

Results from a specific site

If you want Google to find pages with the search terms you enter from a particular website, use the operator site:  
You must remember not to leave any spaces between the operator and your search term.
Google will find all pages on the site that contain the words getting to grips with outlook.

Files in specific format

You can use the operator filetype: followed by the file extension to find specific types of files, such as PDF, DOC, DOCX, etc.
Here we searched for the exact phrase “digital practice in action” occurring in a PDF document.

If you are interested to find out more about improving your search in Google, see Google Help pages: Punctuation, symbols & operators in search.

About the author

Elena is responsible for design and implementation of development initiatives and learning resources to support NTU staff in their use of university systems. Prior to joining NTU, Elena worked in the British Council supporting bidding for and implementation of international development and scholarship management programmes. She has extensive experience as a Learning and Development consultant, specialising in SAP, business process analysis and managing personal and professional development schemes.

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