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Introduction to Research: Google Smart

This guide is to help you with the research process.

Confirmation Bias

When should I use Google?

Google is a search engine, which means that its only use is to search for and retrieve websites.  Google does not create or verify content.  It is useful to find information, but it will only find information that is freely available from other people on the internet.  Google is useful for research when you know what you are doing your research on.

What is Google Scholar?

Google Scholar is a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature.  It allows you to search for both articles and case law, but its information ise not always free or current.  However, it is another tool you can use.

How does Google get its search results?

Google has never publicly revealed its exact process for ranking websites, but it has given some details. Other details can be guessed based on what websites do successfully to gain a rank on the first page of a Google search.  These include:

  • Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.  Websites like Wikipedia and CNN pay a lot of money to specialists in SEO.  It is their primary job to optimize their website so that Google will rank it high.
  • the length of time the website has existed.
  • unique and in depth content.
  • the number of people who link to the website.
  • the bounce rate (the longer someone stays on the website, the lower the bounce rate) and repeat traffic.
  • how quickly the page loads.
  • when the webpage was last updated.
  • spelling and grammar
  • reading level ("medium" reading levels are ranked the highest)
  • Tweets and Facebook likes

Can I advance search in Google?

Google Advanced Search is a useful - if hidden - tool in Google.  For example, you can search for:

  • certain domains (.edu, .gov, .org),
  • websites that have been updated within a certain timeframe,
  • websites in a certain language, or
  • certain file types (.pdf).