Search Tips


Search Tips

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The Basics of Google Search

To enter a query into Google, just type in a few descriptive words and hit the 'enter' key (or click on the Google Search button) for a list of relevant web pages. Since Google only returns web pages that contain all the words in your query, refining or narrowing your search is as simple as adding more words to the search terms you have already entered. Your new query will return a smaller subset of the pages Google found for your original "too-broad" query.

Choosing Keywords

For best results, it's important to choose your keywords wisely. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Try the obvious first. If you're looking for information on Dr. Hartwell, enter "Hartwell" rather than "cancer."
  • Use words likely to appear on a page with the information you want. "Luxury hotel dubuque" gets better results than "really nice places to spend the night in Dubuque."
  • Make keywords as specific as possible. "Antique lead soldiers" gets more relevant results than "old metal toys."


Google searches are NOT case sensitive. All letters, regardless of how you type them, will be understood as lower case. For example, searches for "leland hartwell," "Leland Hartwell" and "lElAnD hArTwELl" will all return the same results.


A single spelling suggestion is returned with the results for queries where the spell checker has detected a possible spelling mistake.

The spell-checker feature is context sensitive. For example, if the query submitted is "gail divers," "gail devers" is suggested as an alternative query. However, "scuba divers" would not return an alternate query suggestion.

Sorting by Date

The Sort-by-Date feature sorts and presents your search results based on date. The date of each file is returned in the results. Results that do not contain dates are displayed at the end, sorted by relevance.

Automatic "and" Queries

By default, Google only returns pages that include all of your search terms. There is no need to include "and" between terms. Keep in mind that the order in which the terms are typed will affect the search results. To restrict a search further, just include more terms.

"OR" Searches

Google supports the logical "OR" operator. To retrieve pages that include either word A or word B, use an uppercase "OR" between terms.

Excluding Words

You can exclude a word from your search by putting a minus sign ("-") immediately in front of the term you want to exclude. Make sure you include a space before the minus sign.

Phrase Searches

You can search for phrases by adding quotation marks. Words enclosed in double quotes ("like this") appear together in all returned documents. Phrase searches using quotation marks are useful when searching for famous sayings or specific names.

Word Variations (Stemming)

To provide the most accurate results, Google does not use "stemming" or support "wildcard" searches. In other words, Google searches for exactly the words that you enter in the search box. Searching for "book" or "book*" will not yield "books" or "bookstore". If in doubt, try both forms: "airline" and "airlines," for instance.

Stop Words

Google ignores common words and characters known as stop words. These include most pronouns and articles. Google automatically disregards such terms as "where" and "how," as well as certain single digits and single letters. These terms rarely help to narrow a search and can significantly slow searching. If you want to use stop words in your search, use the "+" sign or enclose your phrase containing stop words in quotation marks. Make sure that you include a space before the "+" sign.

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