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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Be a Google Ninja: Finding ANYTHING on the Web Part I

I am a Google ninja. I can find darn near anything (or anyone) on Google, because I know how to use all its secret tools. And it has a lot of secret tools. Journalists I’ve worked with sometimes call or email me asking me to help them find something on the internet. I'm just that good. (And totally modest about it, too.)

I'm going to do a short series today and tomorrow to teach you how to use the same mad ninja skillz.

Today we're going to look at basic searches and Google search tools. Tomorrow we're going to look at my favorite advanced search tools.

One little caveat: It can be scary to realize just how much information about you is available on the internet. You are not anonymous online. If someone really knows what they're doing, they can track down all kinds of free information about you by using just your email address or just your name. We'll look at name searches tomorrow -- you may find them especially useful if you have a detective in your story.

Google Basics

Most people know how to conduct a basic Google search. You type a word or words into the Google Search box and go. You can even type your query in the form of a question.

So let’s say I want to learn more about plagiarism. I just type plagiarism, and I get results like Plagiarism.org, which explains what it is and how to avoid it; the Wikipedia entry; and the Purdue OWL, which is the college’s writing help center.

Maybe I want to learn about anti-plagiarism software, which compares a paper's contents to a huge database of written material. I change my query to anti-plagiarism software.

Basic Built-In Google Tools

Did you know you can use Google as a calculator? A dictionary? A spellchecker? Here's how.

Calculator: Simply type the equation into the Google search box, and Google will give you an answer.
  • For example, 5*9= or 6/3=
Dictionary: Type define and the word you want to define, and you will get back a list of definitions.
  • For example, define anorexia
Spellchecker: Just type the word you have in mind, and if you're close, Google will respond with "Did you mean: (correct spelling)?"

Built-In Google Search Tools

If you want to search for a term and its synonyms, use the tilde sign (~) before your search term.
  • Example: ~anorexia pulls up information not only on anorexia, but also on eating disorders.
If you want to find web pages that have content similar to the site you're on, type related: followed by the web address.
  • Example: related:blogger.com pulls up alternate blogging systems, including WordPress and LiveJournal.
If you want to search within a particular site, use [search term] site:[site]
Once you've got these tricks down, come back tomorrow for the truly advanced tricks, the ones that will help you find anything (and anyone)....

Dr. Carolyn Kaufman is a clinical psychologist and professor residing in Columbus, Ohio. 
A published writer, she runs Archetype Writing: Psychology for Fiction Writers and an associated blog. She is often quoted by the media as an expert resource. 

Have a psychology/writing question? Send it to me (using my email address to the right) and you may see it answered on the QueryTracker.net Blog!


Stina said...

Thanks, Carolyn! I didn't know you could do all those things with Google, other than spelling, which I found out by accident. I'm a sucky speller.

Suzette Saxton said...

I sooooo needed this! Thanks for sharing your secrets - now I won't have to bug you quite so often. *wink*

Michelle D. Argyle said...

This is SWEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTT! Can't wait for tomorrow! I didn't know most of this! Thanks!

kathrynjankowski said...

One of the things I love about this blog is posts like this. Lots of useful info that I can tuck away for future reference. Thanks!

BJW said...

this is pretty cool. Thanks!