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teaching:searching-google-well [2019/01/25 15:55] (current)
seanburns created
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 +# Searching Google Well
 +## Introduction
 +There are three big things to consider when advancing your skills with search
 +on the web:
 +- Web documents
 +- Web file system
 +- Web query construction
 +## The web is for storing and retrieving documents
 +When we use Google or another search engine to search, we are often looking for
 +text or documents containing text or matching descriptions. This has some
 +- *Text* has primacy.
 +- Our queries are matched against the text that appears in documents on the
 +  web.
 +- The better our queries match the documents, the better (or more precise) our
 +  search results will be.
 +- The challenge with search is that we do not always know what text a document
 +  contains even if that document covers the topic or concept that we think is
 +  relevant.
 +- For example, consider *synonyms*. If I search for `the sun`, could I also
 +  mean `solar`, `star`, `light`, `radiation`?​
 +- What if a document only uses terms like `solar`, `star`, `light`, and
 +  `radiation`?​ Might it still be useful if I was interested in documents (i.e.,
 +  web pages) about `the sun`?
 +- Other *wordy* issues include things like *homonyms*: by `bark`, do I mean the
 +  bark on a tree or the word we use to signal the sound a dog makes?
 +- Phrases are also important, with respect to term adjacency and word order. If
 +  I search for `forest fire`, Google, and other search engines, is more likely
 +  to return results where those two terms appear next to each other. This will
 +  mean that documents that contain text about someone having a `camp fire in a
 +  forest` will be less likely to appear at the top of my results than a
 +  document that contains the phrase `forest fire`.
 +## The web is well organized
 +The web is strongly organized, even though it may not appear so. We can take
 +good advantage of that when we search by narrowing our searches to just parts
 +of the web.
 +- The web is organized like a tree. This tree like structure originally
 +  contained just a few main branches, such as: .com, .edu, .org, .gov, and
 +  .net, but now contains over 1500 of these. ​
 +- Each of the big branches (top level domains) contains smaller branches
 +  (second level domains), such as,,,​,
 +  and
 +- Those smaller branches (second level domains) contain even smaller branches
 +  (third level domains:,​,​,​
 +,​ and
 +- We can take advantage of this organization by limiting (or focusing) queries
 +  to results within smaller sections of the web.
 +- In Google, this would entail using what is called the `site:` operator in
 +  combination with the query we have constructed. For example, let's say I do a
 +  regular search for the term `flu` and I notice that most of the results that
 +  I'm interested in are from `.gov` domains and most of the results I'm less
 +  interested in are from `.com` domains. To address that, I add the site
 +  operator to my query: `flu site:​gov`. ​
 +- Then perhaps, let's say that I find these results too general still. We can
 +  focus the result on just a smaller branch of the tree. E.g.: `flu
 +  site:​`.
 +- If we take a close look, we can see that `` is further
 +  subdivided by Florida counties. E.g.: `flu site:​`.
 +## Constructing queries for precise results
 +Our queries are important and there are all sorts of tips and tricks we can
 +apply to revise and make them more precise.
 +- **Use quotes:** In our last search, Google provided us with snippets of text
 +  that highlighted where the term **flu** appears in the web pages that are
 +  retrieved. For example, we see terms like: *flu activity*, *flu season*, and
 +  *flu shot*. This is important information because we can use it to revise our
 +  search. Let's say that what I'm really interested in are web pages that
 +  contain info about *flu shots* and less about pages that contain information
 +  on *flu activity* or *flu season*. If that's the case, then I can add the
 +  additional term to my query and also enclose the whole term in quotation
 +  marks. That will force Google to rank pages with the literal term *"flu
 +  shot"* much higher than those other pages, or exclude those other pages
 +  altogether. So our query will now look like this:
 +    - `"flu shot" site:​`.
 +- And, if I'm really interested only in recent pages, I can click on the
 +  **Tools** button and select Past hour, Past 24 hours, Past week, or etc.
 +- **Exclude results with the minus sign:** Let's take a look at our flu shot
 +  search. Instead of enclosing `"flu shot"` in quotes to return only pages with
 +  that phrase, I could exclude the other terms of less interest (i.e.,
 +  `activity` and `season`) by excluding them with a minus sign. This is how our
 +  search would look:
 +flu shot -season -activity site:​
 +I can also exclude specific sites or specific domains:
 +flu shot -site:com
 +flu shot -site:​
 +- **Term order matters**:
 +    - results will be different depending on order. Google has gotten good over
 +      the years about natural language, and so the suggestion is to use natural
 +      language in your query, such that **flu shot** would be better than
 +      **shot flu**.
 +    - for other types of term pairs, results will become increasingly different
 +      as you page through results. E.g., consider: search 1) `google bing` ;
 +      search 2) `bing google`.
 +    - In addition to the minus sign above, we can also use `OR` to tell Google
 +      to return pages with either of the terms or both of the terms. Consider:
 +      search 1) `"​google"​ OR "​bing"​` ; search 2) `"​bing"​ OR "​google"​`
 +## Conclusion
 +- documents on the web
 +  - consider the text
 +- web organization
 +  - take advantage of the how the web is structured with *site* searches
 +- query construction
 +  - use quotes
 +  - exclude terms with the minus sign
 +  - term order matters
 +  - use OR to select alternate terms
 +- if you forget anything, use advanced search:
 +  [https://​​advanced_search](https://​​advanced_search)
 +## P.S.
 +Final tip: You can get very advanced:
 +trade ("​surplus"​ OR "​deficit"​) (site:​ OR site:​
 +Or, limit to specific filetypes:
 +trade ("​surplus"​ OR "​deficit"​) (site:​ OR site:​ filteype:​pdf
teaching/searching-google-well.txt ยท Last modified: 2019/01/25 15:55 by seanburns