Search is changing, transparently without our knowledge and there is danger in this (see last video) but first let’s look at Google search syntax and functionality


Google Phrase Search

The Google default Phrase Search is for words within document or title but it is important to note other semantic functionality.

Google is case insensitive, ex: MOTHERBOARD = motherboard

Google may offer an alternate spelling

Google default Boolean connector is the AND (keywords are case sensitive)

i.e. search for> Ski Snowboard is actually Ski and Snowboard

Google provides OR connector (note it is case sensitive), Ex: Ski OR Snowboard

Google supports implicit Stemming where a search for diet also yields results for diets, dietary, etc.

May use full word wildcards in searches using asterisk, ex: Three * Mice

To find words that are adjacent to each other in the title or text enclose the phrase in quotes. Ex: ”To be or not to be”  – Note this can be used by faculty to find plagiarized work.

Field Search Restrictions

Intitle:”search criteria”

Intext: ”search criteria”

Inanchor: ”search criteria”

Site:edu ”search criteria”

Inurl: ”search criteria”



If you’re not finding what you’re searching for after using basic search tips, try a search operator.  The full list of Google operators is located here:

Search for an exact word or phrase
“search query”

Use quotes to search for an exact word or set of words. This option is handy when searching for song lyrics or a line from literature.
[ “imagine all the people” ]

Tip: Only use this if you’re looking for a very precise word or phrase, because otherwise you could be excluding helpful results by mistake.

Exclude a word

Add a dash (-) before a word or site to exclude all results that include that word. This is especially useful for synonyms like Jaguar the car brand and jaguar the animal.
[ jaguar speed -car ] or [ pandas ]

Tip: You can also exclude results based on other operators, like excluding all results from a specific site.

Include similar words

Normally, synonyms might replace some words in your original query. Add a tilde sign (~) immediately in front of a word to search for that word as well as even more synonyms.
[ ~food facts ] includes results for “nutrition facts”

Search within a site or domain
site: query

Include “site:” to search for information within a single website like all mentions of “Olympics” on the New York Times website.
[ Olympics ]

Tip: Also search within a specific top-level domain like .org or .edu or country top-level domain like .de or .jp.
[ Olympics ]

Include a “fill in the blank”
query * query
Use an asterisk (*) within a query as a placeholder for any unknown or “wildcard” terms. Use with quotation marks to find variations of that exact phrase or to remember words in the middle of a phrase.
[ “a * saved is a * earned” ]
Search for either word
query OR query

If you want to search for pages that may have just one of several words, include OR (capitalized) between the words. Without the OR, your results would typically show only pages that match both terms.
[ olympics location 2014 OR 2018 ]

Tip: Enclose phrases in quotes to search for either one of several phrases.
[ “world cup 2014” OR “olympics 2014” ]

Search for a number range

Separate numbers by two periods (with no spaces) to see results that contain numbers in a given range of things like dates, prices, and measurements.
[ camera $50..$100]

Tip: Use only one number with the two periods to indicate an upper maximum or a lower minimum.
[ world cup winners ..2000 ]

Don’t worry about memorizing the operators – you can use the Advanced Search page to generate many of these searches. You can also reach Google Advanced Search by clicking the gear icon gear icon in the top right corner of the search results page then clicking Advanced search.

We are also beginning to see basic semantic search. This requires an ontological framework in contrast to a basic taxonomy.  To provide a quick example of the difference consider if I searched for “sailboats”.  Presently this would of course retrieve pages with sailboats but at present it would not retrieve “schooners, sloops, yawls and ketches” which are all types of sailboats and therefore satisfy the mathematical ISA relationship.  This is semantic knowledge and the time when this functionality is available is almost here.

A nice intro on Google Search from Google

In this first video, note the way Matt searches… i.e. from database perspective the way the reputable information would be presented “cheetah running speed” as an academic paper would probably cite ” a cheetah’s top running speed is…” in contrast to most people that would seach “How fast is a cheetah or what is the cheetah’s ….” . Matt didn’t cite this in his example but he supplied search words based on an understanding of indexing and databases.


Now how Google crawls & indexes the Web


Google Continuing Search Improvement

This video is the most impressive as it demonstrates Google’s continuing pursuit of improvement but also prevents organizations from improperly skewing the search results.  An intersting tidbit is the continual A-B analysis performed on both test user groups and the general population to determine the optimal search algorithm.



Lastly what should be our concern, the convergence of Big Data, Profiling, Predictive Analytics, Machine Learning => Tailored Content.


Moral Bias of Search Engines


Now let’s take this yet another step and consider that not only a browser but the environment is about to respond to your profile (IoT) and machine learning algorithms will increasingly play an autonomous part in this.

Now if you want unfiltered/non-personalized search have a look at:


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