GGL 101: Introduction to Googling

Like many of my Millennial peers, I am often asked to serve as part-time technician to family, friends, and colleagues. It comes with being a “digital native,” I suppose. Shocking as it may be, however, I am not a walking compendium of quick fixes and antidotes to whatever malady their computer is currently suffering. Rather, I have much more valuable knowledge.

I know how to Google.

I realize that this sounds condescending; please don’t take it that way. Because while you may (and I hope you do) know how to use Google, do you really know how to utilize Google? For many people, the answer is a resounding: No.

Google has a lot of tools that you can use to increase your productivity, organize your life, and even find some entertainment.  I personally use Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google+, and a few other products. I even own a Google tablet. I, for one, welcome our new benevolent electronic overlord.

But that’s not what this article is about.

Instead I want to provide three concrete tips on how you, as a higher education or student affairs professional, can best utilize Google to make your life easier.

1) Google can be your dictionary, calculator, and personal assistant.

Try Googling the following strings or phrases:

  • define bucolic

  • 149 x 14

  • weather Columbia, MO

  • sunrise Hanover, NH

Each one of these queries will bring up a different card with specific information for you, without having to click on any links. You can find a full list of these nifty features here.

2) Google Scholar is a vastly underrated tool. Use it.

Many of you probably know that Google Scholar exists. If you can’t find it immediately, you can either search the phrase “Google Scholar” or go to the main page, click on “More” on the top of the page, click on “Even More,” and then scroll down until you see the Scholar link. Here’s a few things you can do with Google Scholar:

Again, check out the Google Scholar support page for more information. For being a completely free service, there are a ton of awesome tools at your disposal.

And, finally:

3) Make your search more efficient with OPERATORS.

More than likely, your average google search looks like this:

ron swanson quotes

map of College Station, TX

taylor lautner llama

These will certainly get you the results you want (and, I promise, enough evidence to support the Taylor Lautner is a llama theory), but what about when things get more complicated? Say I want to search the website IMDB for movies that Kevin Costner has starred in except for Waterworld because, let’s be real, that movie was bad. I could try typing all of that into Google, or I could do this:

site:imdb.com movies + “kevin costner” -waterworld

Check out what that search looks like. How pretty is that? So I imagine you’re wondering what I just did and what those strange symbols are. Well, here’s a rundown of a few of the symbols and actions that Google calls operators.

site:typehere

This command lets you search a specific website. In the example above, we limited our results to IMDB.

“type here”

Quotation marks will tell Google to only give you results with that entire phrase. So if I hadn’t used the quotations in the example, I might have accidentally gotten a Kevin Bacon movie.

~typehere

The tilde will give you results Google thinks are related to your phrase. So if you type ~water, the first result is water but the second result, interestingly, is river. Neat.

-typehere

The minus sign, as seen above, tells Google to get rid of any results with that phrase. So, again, Waterworld is iffy and I didn’t want any of that.

year..year

Placing two dots in between two years (e.g. 2001..2010) will give you results from only a certain year range. This is especially helpful when using Google Scholar.

Combine these, and other, operators together in a search, or query, and you can add a new level of precision to your results.

Now, this is only a small, small sample of what Google is capable of. Especially as you incorporate more and more services from Google into your life, things get more interconnected (we’re not here, though, to discuss whether this is good or bad).

The big takeaway, though, is this: technological literacy is, like anything else, a skill. The more you research, the more you practice, and the more you try new things, the better you’ll get. I didn’t learn these tricks overnight, it took dedicated trial and error and a bit of research on the side. It takes time and it takes being wrong, but these skills are too important to just remain stagnant. I hope that you found some helpful tips and new ideas in this post, and happy Googling!

—–

Kevin Valliere (@kevalliere) is a student affairs graduate student at Texas A&M University. He maintains a blog at http://www.kevalliere.com, and can also be reached at vallierekevin@gmail.com.

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  1. GGL 101: Introduction to Googling | Occasional and Spectacular Failures

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