Friday, May 21, 2010

Tips 3 and 4 towards better searching

It's been a busy week.  This week I ended up presenting at two elementary school assemblies--the first to 700 kids about Doodle 4 Google, and the second to 350 kids on the topic "Curiosity Tools for Curious Students"--all about Google, with plenty of demonstrations.  

Here's Chris Haas (my co-presenter, on the left), me and Kathy Lee--the 4th grade winner of the Doodle-for-Google content in her greater Minnesota region. 

One of the important things I tell the students is this:  You've got to keep checking back to see what's new at Google, because we're always making new tools and new capabilities available.

That observation leads me to the next 2 tips towards better searching...  

3.  Learn about the different Google search properties.  

Everyone knows that Google lets you search the web, and most people know that Google lets you search for images and videos.  But did you know that Google also lets you search through the collected news archives going back to the mid 1800s?  And you can use Google to search for scanned copies of books and magazines (, financial information about companies you care about (, scholarly articles from scientific journals and conferences (, and blogs (  

What’s more, Google also has a number of services that you can use to be a super searcher.  Google Translate can transliterate words from English to Hindi and back (Urdu is in alpha, with other Indic languages on the way). You can also use this service to translate entire documents or web pages to/from different languages.  While the translations aren’t quite as good as the best human translators, if your working knowledge of Swedish is as low as mine, Google Translate will be a powerful tool.  (

For instance, last week Google launched 5 new languages on Google Translate — Armenian,AzerbaijaniBasqueGeorgian and Urdu. Google also extended their support for spoken translations to 29 more languages.

If you blink, you might miss an important announcement that's really relevant to the kinds of work you do!  

4. Use short, simple queries that get to the point.  

A common mistake beginner searchers make is to use too many words in their query.  If you’re still searching for the Purple Moorhen, a poor query is one that uses too many words that aren’t really relevant to the topic.  For example, 

[ purple bird I saw at the Lotus Pond last Tuesday afternoon ] 

is not a great query.  The key thing you want to search out is information about the bird.  All the extra words about “I saw at” or “last Tuesday afternoon” just aren’t relevant.  Worse than that, all those extra words actually decrease the accuracy of the search results.  Keep your search queries crisp and to the point.  

We'll talk about how to explore a query space in a few more posts.  But for the moment, keep your queries tight and on-target.  

Search on! 


  1. I work at an elementary school. Occasionally I am asked about the Terms of Service with regards to the Google Search. People point to the requirement of being of an age that can form contracts. That being interpreted on average to around 18 years of age.

    Are elementary age students allowed to use Google Search based on the TOS?

    How should I respond?

  2. Fred -- This is a great question, but I don't know the authoritative answer. I'll ask my Googler friends in the Google online help forum and get back to you on this. (Probably on Monday...)

  3. Fred -- Can you point to a particular section of the Google Terms of Service that suggests that Google searchers need to be of an "age that can form contracts"? Is there something written that's particularly worrisome to you?


    "2.3 You may not use the Services and may not accept the Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google, or (b) you are a person barred from receiving the Services under the laws of the United States or other countries including the country in which you are resident or from which you use the Services."