How to use Google to find out just about anything

We all know that Google is an excellent research tool. Yet time and time again, people – clients, friends, acquaintances – ask me what I can find out for them about this or that, because they know that I’m a “good researcher.”

That’s true: I’m a good researcher because I have to be. It’s an important part of my job. But with Google being available to anyone with an internet connection, anyone with an internet connection can be a good researcher. Not just me or others like me.

So what’s stopping you?

Good question. What is stopping you? Especially considering that searching for information on Google now is many times easier than it was in the early days of search engines.

Back then, you needed to have a firm grip on the formulae of searching, knowing how to phrase your search terms, when to use quotation marks / inverted commas around certain phrases, etc.

OK, those issues still apply, but whatever wonderful improvements Google has made to its searchability the bottom line is you can now find pretty well everything you want to know within its squillions of pages – very easily.

What about the reliability of internet information?

Another good question. The internet is a wonderful thing and the freedom it gives me and gazillion other bloggers, writers, posters or whatever you like to call us, is blinding in its glory.

Trouble is, there is a lot of information out there that is unreliable at best, and downright bullsh*t at worst. The sad reality is that anyone can publish whatever they like on the internet, get it rated on Google if they’re good at Search Engine Optimisation, and it’s unlikely that such people will be challenged.

Even the mighty Wikipedia – a wonderful, wonderful resource that I love dearly, especially because it’s free and available to all as many things were in the early spirit of the internet – is open to potential inaccuracies despite its policy of active peer review.

So how do you get around that problem when you’re researching for genuine, hard facts? Here’s one of my favourite tricks …

Finding common denominators

Whatever you’re researching on Google, don’t rely purely on one source unless you are certain that it provides the correct, authoritative information that you’re looking for. Instead, examine a number of sites that appear in your search, and see what common elements they present. Obviously, choose the best known and most respected options if you know which they are.

For example, say you want to know the symptoms of athlete’s foot: here are 6 extracts, and their sources, responding to the search term athletes foot symptoms:

WebMD.com (reliable source)
Peeling, cracking, and scaling of the feet.
Redness, blisters, or softening and breaking down (maceration) of the skin.
Itching, burning, or both.

NHS Choices (reliable source)
As well as being itchy, your skin may also be:
red
scaly
flaky
dry
You may also have other symptoms such as:
cracked skin
blisters (which may be oozing or crusting)
swollen skin
burning or stinging skin
scaling patterns around your sole and on the side of your foot

Wikipedia (reasonably reliable source)
Athlete’s foot causes scaling, flaking, and itching of the affected skin. Blisters and cracked skin may also occur, leading to exposed raw tissue, pain, swelling, and inflammation. Secondary bacterial infection can accompany the fungal infection, sometimes requiring a course of oral antibiotics.

eMedicineHealth.com (reliability unknown)
Most commonly, athlete’s foot is characterized by cracking and itchy, moist, white, scaly lesions or sores between the toes. It frequently spreads to the sole of the foot.
Another type of athlete’s foot is a dry, scaly form that causes a reddish “moccasin-like” area over the soles of the feet. This type often affects both feet.
Less frequently, this infection may involve painful blistering lesions, which can be weepy.

Canesten (manufacturer of treatment product … probably reliable)
Itchy feet, especially between the toes
Burning sensation and inflammation
Itchy, peeling skin between toes
Cracked skin
Dry and flaky soles of feet
Smelly feet (caused by bacteria)
Blisters

TheAthletesFootSymptoms.com (reliability doubtful, article spinning suspected … just read this paragraph!)
There are number of people suffer with the inconvenience of athletes foot symptoms. It gets its name like this because it is normal with the people who are more active and athletic in common. When you have every any discomfort with the athlete’s foot symptoms you will come to know about the pain they can create. There are many normal athletes’ foot symptoms. People may experience only one or two. Generally people will not suffer with all types at single time. But you may have a various athletes foot symptom every time when you get this problem. There are numerous people have a athletes foot symptoms like itching or burning between the toes. Certain people may have the feeling on the soles of the foot affected. Most of the times a patch of burning blisters may break out. Certain times the first athletes foot symptoms is peeling and cracking skin. It generally occurs on the side of the foot or between the toes. You can also see a large dry skin which indicates a bout session the athlete’s foot. But sometimes and commonly, the athlete’s foot symptoms are seen under the toe nails or in the nail place. The nails may turn highly crumbly or thick.

And our common denominators?

  • Peeling, cracking, and scaling of the feet
  • Redness, blisters, or softening and breaking down of the skin
  • Itching, burning, or both
  • Possible bacterial complications

Obviously this list is not and should not be promoted as medically certain or comprehensive, but there’s a very good chance that a doctor would agree with it as a pretty accurate basic look at the symptoms of athlete’s foot.

Fine-tune your search words as you go along

This is another useful trick I’ve learned.

OK. Say someone recommended to you that you should feed your dog a product with a name like “Well…” something.

Start by keying in dog food.

On the first page of Google you’ll see various brand names and as you scroll through, you remember the person recommending the product said it was a dry dog food.

Update your search box entry to dry dog food and click on.

You notice a product with a name that could be the one your friend meant – Wellness, but that looks like an American brand and you’re in the UK.

Doesn’t sound quite right. Go back to the search box and update your words again so you have well dry dog food. Click on and scroll down a bit…

And bingo – there it is: dog food by James Wellbeloved. (It’s excellent dog food, by the way, but it’s expensive – for my dogs I buy Chudley’s from horse feed stores which is a lot cheaper!)

Those are my own key tips for using Google for research and they have helped me enormously.

There are many other sources of good advice which you can find, not surprisingly, by Googling “how to search on Google effectively” … ! I’ve had a look through some of those options on your behalf, however, and this one seems to be particularly helpful.

Do you have any tips about how to research on Google that you’d like to share with us?

Now, find out how to make your writing work wonders:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“How To Write Winning Non-fiction”…all you need to know to write a good non-fiction book and get it published

 

photo credit: manfrys via photo pin cc

Comments

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Thoughts

  1. Great advice! I especially love Google’s ability to find any scientific article anywhere . . . and give me access to at least an abstract.

    People who grew up pre-internet can’t imagine what a pain it used to be to find that kind of information.

    • Too right, Mary. All those hours in public libraries, reading through newspapers, books, research papers, phone calls, letter writing … I don’t miss that at all.

  2. I love the power of the search and the amazing results. And what brought it home to me was at the Opening Ceremony last weekend: the WWW was created in the early 1990s. What did we do before then?

    • What we did before then was, we sweated it out – see Mary’s comment above and my response! The difference the internet has made to research is just incredible.

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  1. […] get used to searching for facts and figures on Google with clarity and accuracy – check out this article if you want some more detailed help with how to do that without falling victim to inaccurate […]

  2. […] get used to searching for facts and figures on Google with clarity and accuracy – check out this article if you want some more detailed help with how to do that without falling victim to inaccurate […]

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