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Research 101 (older version): Simple tips and tricks for Google

Exclude certain words

You can exclude results by putting a minus sign in front of words you don't want included in your search. This is especially useful when:

  • you are finding too many webpages that include something that is very common but not relevant to your search; or
  • your searches have been guided by Google's assumptions about who you are/where you are, and you want results that do not include those assumptions.

Example: say you want to find out about city councils generally, and don't want your results limited to the NYC city council, (which Google will do if you are searching in NYC). Compare your results from these two searches:

Google city council


Google city council minus NYC

Search for EXACT words

Google now automatically searches not only for your keywords, but also any other words that it thinks are reasonable synonyms or related terms.

Sometimes, however, you may want to search just for your exact words - especially if you see an important difference in meaning between your word and a synonym that Google has inserted into your results.

(1) Click on "tools"

Google click on tools

(2) You will now have two new options under the box. Click on "all results" and then select "verbatim".

google all results

google verbatim


Limit search by date

Google does not automatically put newest results first. Some reasons you may want to limit dates:

  • Find very recent information about a news event that is changing quickly; for instance, if there has been an ongoing crisis for the last week, but you want to see what has been posted in the last hour or last 24 hours.
  • Find out the most recent information about an older event that was heavily written about when it happened--so there are many existing older webpages about your subject--but you want to find out recent developments.
  • Find the most up-to-date information about something that by its nature changes often - for instance, software and other technology; for instance, if you need help with a Microsoft Word problem, limiting your search to the past year will eliminate websites that give advice for old versions of Word.
  • Select a specific date range to find out what was written about something or someone during a particular period (more on this below).

(1) After you've entered your keywords and gotten your results, click on "tools"

google click on tools

(2) You will now see new options underneath the box - click on the words "any time" to see your choices; most are self-explanatory.

google click on "any time" for drop-down menu


(3) If you want to specify a specific range of dates, click on "custom range":

"any time" menu with custom range circled

Note: Possible uses for a custom range of dates could include:

  • finding out what news sources said on the day of a particular event, or
  • searching for what was said about your topic before a particular time.

Sample exercise: do this search for Charlottesville and try the three different date ranges in the pictures below. Compare your results.

How can you use date ranges in your research? 

Here is one example. Let's say you wanted to dig deeper behind the July 2017 violence in Charlottesville. One piece of information you might want is what was being reported in the news about White supremacist groups near Charlottesville a couple years ago. 

Do the third search (2015) again, and this time add the word KKK to your terms. Look at your results. If you didn't have the date filter on for this search, it would take a long time to get to any webpages that were written before the violence occurred this summer, because it was such big news.

July 8 searchsearch before July incident Charlottesville

search Charlottesville 2015

Search WITHIN a particular site

Many websites, even good ones, have less-than-excellent ways to search within their webpages.

Google tends to do a better job searching within websites.

(1) To search within a particular website, type and then your keywords.


  • there is no space between the colon after site and the URL,
  • but there is a space between site:www.URLof and your keywords

An example you can try:

(1) Use Google search-within-site to look for anything published in the New York Times that contains the keyword DACA.

Google search within NYT site

(2) Go to the New York Times website and do a search for DACA using their own search engine.

Here is where the search button is on NYT

NYT own search for DACA

(3) Compare the results.

  • They will be pretty similar, though not exactly the same, with this basic search.
  • You can't do either kind of advanced search with the Times' own search function.


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More tips from Google

Find more tips for advanced searching from Google itself here.