How to Find What You’re Looking For

This is something I see others struggle with constantly, and it’s such a necessary skill in life. Being able to easily find what you want with a few clicks on Google is a skill that should be already mastered in high school and university.

To start with, I think that the hardest challenge is wording. Google is not a human, it can’t translate your long and confusing chain of words into your desired answer. To understand how to research, you need to understand how it works. Search engines like Google use the keywords you insert to look for ALL the websites in the visible internet that contain the words, one of the words, or seem related.

When creating a phrase to look up make sure it’s:

  • Precise
    • Make sure that the words you use are the best available to describe it. Instead of using “baby dog“, use “puppy“, for example.
  • Short
    • Super long searches that go past the visible writing space are not very effective. Unless you’re looking for a quote and actually need to use that space, try to explain what you’re looking for in the least amount of words as possible.
  • Simple/straightforward
    • One of the most important things is to use simple and straightforward language in your searches – child-like language even. The simpler, the better. You have to infer how others will also search that same topic and how people title their websites and posts. Also, as you write in the search bar, pay attention to Google suggestions because it will usually recommend the most popular searches (which have more results) and how people phrase them.

Google has some cool and very useful tools that you can use to get what you want. For example – my favorite – “put things in quotations”. When you put anything in quotations, all the results will have the words in the phrase in that same order. So if I want to look for Topshop slacks, the results of researching 🔎Topshop slacks are much broader and general than if I search for 🔎”Topshop slacks”, since every result has that exact phrase.

Another key aspect of researching is how specific your searches are. When I’m looking for something specific, I usually dive right into that and see what results I get. If I don’t find anything or things are unrelated, I backtrack and go a level less specific. For example, if I want to specifically find 🔎Role of sarcasm in Ancient Greek theater, but don’t find what I’m looking for, I may need to be more general and search for 🔎Language in Ancient Greek theater, and then go another route like talking about 🔎”Sarcasm” in Greek comedy theater. Placing “sarcasm” in quotations ensures that the word appears in my search results.

A trick to finding quality content is to avoid using phrases like “how to” and “what is”. Unless you haven’t noticed, when you use those phrases, the first results are usually public forums by random people. Even though this is fine for everyday topics and quick things you want to find out, if you have to write an essay then get to the point and write 🔎Jesus age instead of 🔎How old was Jesus?

A trick I’ve talked about in my “Technology Shortcuts I Can’t Live Without” post that saves me a lot of time while I research is using Command+F. When you have to write a paper and look at long websites and PDFs, it’s super useful to use the command-find tool and find the word/topic/phrase you’re looking for without having to read the whole thing.

Read Google Search Tips & Shortcuts

Thank you and hope this helps!

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