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Search Tips for Google

Refine your searches and get the best results using these Google Search strategies. See example search on the next tab.

Exact Phrase Search with Quotation Marks:

  • What it does: Searches for an exact phrase or name
  • What to type: "one small step for man" ; "John W. Creswell"
  • What you'll get: Results that include the exact phrase "one small step for man" or the exact name "John W. Creswell"

Excluded Words with a Minus Sign:

  • What it does: Excludes search results with a particular word or phrase
  • What to type: STEM -cell
  • What you'll get: Results about STEM education that are not related to stem cell research

Similar Words with a Tilde Character:

  • What it does: Searches for a word and all of its synonyms
  • What to type: ~mobile phone
  • What you'll get: Results with the word phone as well as cell, cellular, wireless, etc.


OR Multiple Words using OR:

  • What it does: Searches for webpages that include either word
  • What to type: "higher education" OR university OR college
  • What you'll get: Results with either of the words "higher education," university or college

Numerical Ranges with an Ellipsis:

  • What it does: Searches for a range of numbers
  • What to type: Willie Mays 1950...1960
  • What you'll get: Results about Willie Mays during this time period

For more information about search strategies, visit the Preparing to Search LibGuide.

In this example, we’ve used quotation marks to search for teacher self efficacy scale as an exact phrase. While we have over 37,000 results, without the quotation marks, we would receive 26.4 MILLION results.

Google phrase search for "teacher self efficacy scale"

Use these modifiers and commands in your Google search to refine your search and obtain targeted results. See example search on the next tab.


  Allintitle: limit keywords to a webpage's title 

  • What it does: Searches for a word or phrase in the title
  • What to type in the search box: allintitle: "educational psychology"
  • What you'll get: Links to pages with "educational psychology"  in the title

  Define: command to find meanings 

  • What it does: Defines a word or phrase
  • What to type in the search box: define:phenomenology
  • What you'll get: Links to definitions of the word phenomenology 


  Filetype: command to search specific file formats

  • What it does: Searches for results with a specific file type (example: .pdf, .doc, .ppt, .xls)
  • What to type in the search box: psychotherapy filetype:pdf
  • What you'll get: Links to PDF documents on the topic of psychotherapy

  Link: command to search linked pages 

  • What it does: Searches for webpages that link to a specific website
  • What to type in the search box:
  • What you'll get: Websites that link to Northcentral University 

  Related: command to search related websites

  • What it does: Searches for similar websites for a specific web source
  • What to type in the search box:
  • What you'll get: Related webpages to the National Institutes of Health


  Site: command to search specific sites

  • What it does: Searches specific types of websites defined by the command (example: .edu, .gov, .org, .us)
  • What to type in the search box: cybersecurity
  • What you'll get: References to cybersecurity specifically on .gov websites



In this example, we’ve used quotation marks to search for teacher self efficacy scale as an exact phrase. Additionally, we have limited our results to just those coming from .edu websites. In this way, we eliminate the commercial websites and are more likely to encounter scholarly content.

Google search for "teacher self efficacy scale:

Find Similar Sites on Google

During a search, you may come across a webpage that provides useful information. If the option is available for the resulting webpage, you can find similar websites by clicking on the dropdown arrow and selecting Similar as shown in the example below:

Find Similar Websites

You may also use the command related: to search for similar websites for a specific web source. The below example displays related webpages to the National Institutes of Health (

Finding related websites using the command related: in Google

Drafting your list of keyword terms is an important step as you seek information. Keep these points in mind as you draft your keyword search strategy:

  • Consider synonymous terms. There are different ways to describe the same concept.
  • Think about terms and concepts that others would use to describe your topic, including scholars. 
  • Consider outdated terms or terms that are no longer acceptable today. These terms may still be prominently reflected in the literature.

For more information, visit the Keyword Searching LibGuide page.


What is a Primary Source?

Primary resources contain first-hand information, meaning that you are reading the author’s own account on a specific topic or event that s/he participated in. Examples of primary resources include scholarly research articles, books, and diaries. Primary sources such as research articles often do not explain terminology and theoretical principles in detail. Thus, readers of primary scholarly research should have a foundational knowledge of the subject area. Use primary resources to obtain a first-hand account of an actual event and identify original research done in a field. For many of your papers, the use of primary resources will be a requirement.

Examples of a primary source are:

  • Original documents such as diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, records, eyewitness accounts, autobiographies
  • Empirical scholarly works such as research articles, clinical reports, case studies, dissertations
  • Creative works such as poetry, music, video, photography

For an overview of primary sources, please see the Primary and Secondary Resources LibGuide.

How to Google for Primary Sources 

Add these primary source search terms to your topical search terms to more easily find trusted, credible primary sources online from cultural heritage or educational organizations.

exhibition archives papers "teacher's kit"
"digital exhibit" "special collections" manuscripts curriculum
"digital collection" library records "lesson plans"
"primary sources" museum collection "learning object"

The example below shows a Google search for primary sources on women's history.

Google search for "women's history" "primary source"

You can also try format-specific search terms such as the following: 

"account ledgers" invitations photographs (1850s+)
acts "lab notebooks"


"archival footage" "legal records" posters
audio (1870s+) legislation "press releases"
clippings letters prints
correspondence maps reports
diaries memoirs scrapbooks
deeds menus sermons
ephemera "military orders" speeches
film / video (1890s+) newspapers telegraphs
"financial records" "oral histories" treaties
"government publications" pamphlets tickets
handbooks, manuals paintings wills

The example below shows a Google search for speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King that do NOT come from .com websites.

Google search for "martin luther king" speeches

Source Credit: How to Google for Primary Sources by Robin M. Katz, January 2021

There is also an Advanced Search feature accessible from the Google search results screen, located under Settings. The Advanced search screen offers more options for search terms, as well as ways to narrow your search by: Language, Region, Last Update, Site or domain, File type, Usage rights.

Screenshot showing the Google Advanced Search feauture located under the Settings menu.

Google Advanced Search screen