QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Thursday, September 3, 2009

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

So now you know how to use some of the great Google tools. Want to know how to do a super specialized search?  These tricks are so advanced that even advanced researchers use them less than 5% of the time.  But they unleash a huge amount of power.  They're what make you a full Google ninja!

Here are two of my favorites:

Phrase Search

Erich Fromm is one of my favorite philosopher/psychologists.  He wrote this fantastic paper called "On Disobedience," in which he explains why disobeying authority is sometimes the truest form of doing what is right.  If you Google erich fromm on disobedience (I'm too lazy to capitalize sometimes, and Google doesn't care) you get a list of sites that list, quote, or talk about the paper.  But say that's not what I want. I want to see if the paper itself is online.

The trick is to put quote around a short phrase from the paper itself exactly, including any punctuation. (Personally, I try to avoid using punctuation, but if there is any, you  must use it exactly.) Now, I'm geeky enough to know the first couple of lines of the paper by heart, so I put a phrase in quotes beside my original search.  Now my search query looks like this:

Now I'm only getting sources that include that exact phrase.  Unfortunately, it's a quotable quote, so what I ended up with is a bunch of websites that sell bad term papers to students.

So I need to pick a more obscure phrase from the paper.  I get out the handy-dandy book that contains the paper and search

Bingo.  Now I have a Google Books result.

But that's still not good enough.  So I'm going to pick an even more obscure phrase that's less likely to be someone's quotable quote.  So I pick something that really captures the style of Fromm's writing but isn't likely to be quoted anywhere but in the actual article:

"my conviction and my judgment, if authentically mine, are part of me"

Now I have three results, including a web-based copy of the article.  Ta-da!  You can read it here.

Excluding Terms

From time to time I Google my name.  (Come on, admit it, you do it too.)  My excuse is that sometimes when I work with journalists, they don't tell me they're using a quote I gave them.  And sometimes Google Alerts don't catch those articles when they're posted online.  So I Google myself in search of them so I can print them for my expert portfolio.

Until the internet age, I thought I had a unique name.  Turns out there are other people out there named Carolyn Kaufman.  (Humph.)

If you search my name, my information pops up to the top (ha! take that, other Carolyn Kaufmans!), but it turns out that there's also a Carolyn Kaufman who's a former professor and the CEO of a corporation, another who's an RN, and another in Orange County who says she has "Indigo Children" -- kids who have special powers to see the future.  (Holy oh noes.  What will this do to my professional credibility?)  There are a few others out there, too, mostly Twitter and Facebook links and marriage announcements. There's a Carolyn J. Kaufman (not me), a Carolyn C. Kaufman (not me), and a Carolyn A. Kaufman (also not me). Which leaves me a lot to sort through.

So the first thing I'm going to do is make my name into a phrase search to exclude any results with middle initials, because I don't usually use mine: "carolyn kaufman"

Then I'm going to start excluding phrases.  In other words, I'm going to tell Google not to give me search results if they include this term or word. So to remove all the Indigo Children listings, I type a minus sign in front of the word I want to avoid:

"carolyn kaufman" -indigo

Fantastic, now all the Indigo Children listings are gone, but let's say I want to exclude all those other CKs I mentioned, too?  Well, I just keep excluding terms:

"carolyn kaufman" -indigo -ceo -rn

That search leaves me with a Google search page that includes only one listing that isn't about me.  I'm pretty happy with that.  But let's say you're even picker.  So I note that the other CK in the list of my results is from California, so I just add that to my list of exclusions:

"carolyn kaufman" -indigo -ceo -rn -ca

And so on.  I can also make things more specific by including my unique credentials.  For example, I have a doctorate in clinical psychology, a Psy.D., so I can add that (note that I am adding it, not excluding it, so there is no minus before the psyd):

"carolyn kaufman" psyd -indigo -ceo -rn -ca

Ooh, now we're really getting somewhere.

If you're name-searching someone, you should also use common variations of their name.  If you're looking for a Dave, for example, also try searching with the name David.  If you're searching for a John, also try Jonathan, Johnny, and Jon.

Congratulations, you are now a Google Search Ninja!

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!


Clementine said...

Thank you for this post! This will save me from getting frustrated the next time.

Becky Mushko said...

When I taught college grammar and comp, I'd often Google-sleuth certain phrases from student compositions to see if students had gotten their, um, inspiration elsewhere.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Thanks again!