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This guide is designed to introduce you to features of Google and present search tips that will help make your research more effective.

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About Google

Google is a good tool when you are performing basic and preliminary searches to get a general idea of your topic.

Getting the most out of Google takes time, some savvy, and lots of creativity.

This guide will help you get the most out of Google searches and provides you with information about other  Google tools. For instance, did you know that:

  • you can choose favourites and bookmarks and access them from anywhere?
  • you can create and customize your very own maps?
  • you can setup Google to alert you of new results in a search on your topic?
  • you can save a Word document in Google Docs and access it from anywhere?
  • you can work with classmates on a project or assignment using Google Docs or Forms?
  • you can read a Google eBook on your iPad or Smartphone?
  • you can follow Google News on Twitter?

Explore this guide to learn more about the powerful world of Google. 

Google Scholar Search

Tips & Tricks & Strategies to Search Google

Basic Search

Basic Search

You probably use Google often and have for quite a while.  However, research has shown that most users lack some basic information about how to effectively search the Internet using Google.

Here are some useful techniques to help you become a better Google user.

Use Synonyms combined with “OR”

There are many ways to state your search term or topic. If you are searching for “female” consider using “girl” or “woman” as well.

Combine the synonyms you have listed with "OR." The word  “OR” must be in capitals otherwise Google will ignore it.

Example: global warming OR climate change

Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks around phrases to be sure Google searches for the phrase and not the single words. This is useful when you are searching for proper names.

Example: “Jack Layton”

Search Sites

If you want to search within a specific website you can so it by entering your search term followed by site:sitedomain.

Example: You are interested in “leadership” within the federal government of Canada agencies. Entering leadership will return results about leadership from Government of Canada websites. 

  • this searches the government of Canada websites
  • searches only BC government sites
  • site:org searches non-profit organization sites
  • site:ca searches websites with the domain .ca for Canada
  • searches websites from most universities and colleges in the United States

Exclude Terms

Use the minus sign "-" to exclude terms

Example: jockey -underwear will return results about horse jockeys, and exclude anything about the brand of underwear.

Search Website Titles

You can make a search more precise by limiting your search words to the title of the page e.g. allintitle:climate change

Search for specific document types:

You can search for specific document types by adding the command filetype: to the end of your search. This allows you to search for pdfs, PowerPoint presentations, Excel files and others e.g. filetype:pdf, filetype:ppt, filetype:xls

For more information about Basic Google search strategies see Basic Search Help.

About Advanced Search

It is important to know how to use the features in Advanced Search.  Sometimes they work efficiently and other times you might get puzzling results.

You can limit your search by:

  • date
  • usage rights
  • language
  • file type
  • region
  • reading level

To learn more about these features see Advanced Google Help.

Using Advanced Search

Advanced Search gives you options that help you refine your search significantly. Try Advanced Search when you are getting thousands or millions of results in your Basic Search. In Advanced Search you can:

  • limit your search by a specific language, some date ranges, file type 9PDF, .doc, XML), and many more
  • use “safe search” (filter out unwanted content)
  • choose where your search terms appear (in title, text, URL, etc.)


Other search features

Want to re-run that perfect search you did earlier? There's an easy way to find it again; however, there's a catch.

Be sure you are logged into your Google Account when you start your search, so you can retrieve it later.

Your history will be listed chronologically, and you can conveniently use the calendar to find earlier searches.

A few tools . . .

Find a particular site or search within a range of sites.

If you are looking for information from a particular site use the "site:" operator to limit your searches. For example:

  • If you are looking for leadership information on the Thompson Rivers University Web site, try this search: leadership
  • If you are looking for items about cycling in the Georgia Straight Newspaper, Vancouver, try this search: cycling

Use Google spell checker.

Try this quick way to see if you got the spelling correct. Just enter the word in the search box and click search. If it's an ooops, Google will give you a correct spelling.

Want to know the time in Japan? Norway? Iceland? Enter "time" in the Google search box followed by the name of the city or country. For example: try time Incheon

Multiplication? Subtraction? Fraction division? Use Google calculator. Try entering a calculation like 227 * (345/4 + 23) or 4*3+(sqrt 20)^44=. Too much? Check out Google's calculator information sheet where you will find the rules for trig functions, algorithm base 10, circumference to the diameter of a circle, physical constants and much more.

Find flight arrival and departure times. For example: AC 221

Find currency conversions. For example: 100 EUR in dollars

Look up a movie.  Type - movies True Grit - into the search box.

Change inches to centimetres? Kilometres to miles? Quickly convert between different units of measurement. Type the units of measurement you wish to convert to and from into the search box:  chains to rods

Google Alerts is an updating service you can set to get emails based on the terms of your search. You will need a Google Account.

How will this help you get information? You can:

  • monitor a developing news story (elections, tsunamis, etc.)
  • stay up to date on a sports team
  • keep track of Lady Gaga's events

Google Images

Getting Copyright-friendly Images

To prevent plagiarism and copyright infringement, obtain permission for and credit the source of all images, graphs, photos, and other artwork.

Check out the following copyright-friendly sources of visuals:

Classroom Clipart  

  • This collection may be used by teachers and students in print, multimedia, and video productions.

Educational Resources from Library & Archives Canada  

  • Educators can use, modify, reproduce and distribute these educational resources.  

  • Use images for websites, presentations, newsletters.

LIFE Photo Archive  

  • For personal non-commercial use only.


  • Pics4Learning is a copyright-friendly image library for educators and students.

Teacher Files  

  • Free educational resources for instructors to use in their classrooms: ideas, clipart, activities and lesson plans.


Google Scholar

How to Set up Library Links in Google Scholar

With Library Links, you can access research licensed by TRU libraries in Google Scholar. Library Links will automatically be active for computers on campus, but you can follow a few simple steps to set it up on your home computer as well.

1. Go to the Google Scholar homepage:

2. If you have a Google account, sign in. This will activate Library Links on every computer on which you sign in to your account.


3. Open up the menu.

4. Click on Settings

5. In the left menu, click on Library Links.


6. Using the Search bar, search for TRU or Thompson Rivers University.


7. Make sure that the box next to "Thompson Rivers University - Find it @ TRU" is checked.


8. Click Save.

Google Scholar compared to TRU's discovery service

How does Discover compare to Google Scholar?

The TRU library provides an alternative to Google Scholar using the Ebsco Discovery Service, or Discover. Discover is an effective way of finding full text resources available through TRU Library. Scholar is particularly useful for finding unpublished academic articles or open access resources hosted on academic web servers.

Discover and Google Scholar are search engines that let you quickly search across countless numbers of scholarly information sites and publications; however, each search different selections of scholarly content.  While you will find some overlap, some content in Discover is not available in Google Scholar, and visa-versa.  The two search engines perform relevance ranking in very different ways.

Features unique to Discover

  • Results are from TRU Library collection - Discover search results are content to which TRU Library subscribes, purchases or licenses and is available to staff and students.
  • Search features - you can more efficiently search across TRU Library content using the "Refine your search" and "Content Type" limiters located on the left side of Discover results page
  • Search extenders - you can more efficiently search across other TRU Library content using the  "Extend Search" option.  This feature allows you to search other data sources such as CBCA, Government of Canada, CANLII, Youtube and even Google Scholar.  
  • Full-text - you can get to an article right away using "Items with full text online" only or "Limit to articles from scholarly publications, including peer review" limiter
  • Advanced result list options - Discover has some impressive tools to handle your search results.  You can email yourself full text, citations preformatted in your preferred citation style and permanent links to documents.  Discover can also be configured to save search strings and automatically re-run searches for you.

Features unique to Google Scholar

  • "Cited by"  - Google Scholar will display a list of articles and documents that have cited the document originally retrieved in the search.
  • "Related articles"  - Google Scholar will display an option to run another search to find similars results to the document originally retrieved in the search.
  • Google Books content - Google Scholar includes this content in its search results

Google Books

Searching Google Books

 A quick overview of Google Books

How to Search

Book Search works just like web search. Try a search on Google Books or on When Google finds a book with content that contains a match for your search terms, Google will link to it in your search results.

Browse books online If the book is out of copyright, or the publisher has given Google permission, you'll be able to see a preview of the book, and in some cases the entire text. If it's in the public domain, you're free to download a PDF copy.
Learn more Google has created reference pages for every book so you can quickly find all kinds of relevant information: book reviews, web references, maps and more. See an example.
Where Google gets books Currently, Google is connecting readers with books in two ways: the and the Library Project and the Partner Program.

Google Products

What you can do with Google Drive

What can Google Docs do for you?! You can create and share your ideas, projects, assignments, and spreadsheets from anywhere you have a computer and Internet connection.


  • documents
  • spreadsheets
  • presentations
  • drawings

With your free Google account, your saved documents can be accessed and shared with others. Your documents cannot be found through general web searches unless you decide to use the publishing feature.

Get Published!

When you have created a document or spreadsheet that you want to publish on the Web, Google Docs has an easy process for you.

Web page

  • from the Edit page, expand the Share button from the top right corner
  • a new window will appear giving you options to Publish Document or Post to a Blog
  • click Publish Documentand you will be provided with a URL
  • you can share that URL with others, preview the web page, stop publishing, and much more


  • follow the same steps as publishing to a Web page but choose the Post to a Blog option and follow the instructions
  • Blogger is the default site but you can change it in the option
  • be sure to add tags to your document so that it will be included in your post categories


The next time you are working on a class project or assignment, get it together with Google Docs. It is so easy to do!

  • send an invitation by email to people involved in your project or others with whom you want to share a file
  • each person can sign in and begin to either edit or view your document or spreadsheet
  • several people can simultaneously access, view, and make changes to the document
  • this is so cool! There is an on-screen chat window for spreadsheets and document revisions showing the history of changes and by whom, when and what.

Learn more about Google Docs

What you can do with Google Drive

Google Drive allows you to centrally store your files in the cloud. You can also install the desktop and mobile application to access your files from your computer or Android or iOS mobile device. Google Drive's built-in sync capability ensures that your files, folders, and Google Docs are the same on all your devices.

Google Docs is built into Google Drive. The Google Docs collaboration suite includes five different applications: Documents, Presentations, Spreadsheets, Forms, and Drawing.

With Google Drive, you can create and share word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online, and collaborate with others on group projects. Students and teachers can create documents using these state-of-the-art tools, then communicate and collaborate with each other in real time right inside a web browser window.

Some of the things you can do with Google Drive:


  • Create new documents or upload and convert Word documents, OpenOffice, RTF, HTML, text (.txt) and other types of files.
  • Easily format and spell-check your documents.
  • Invite others by email to edit or view your documents.
  • Edit documents online with whomever you choose.
  • View your documents' revision history and roll back to any version.
  • Publish documents online to the world, as web pages or post documents to your blog.
  • Download documents to your desktop as Word, OpenOffice, RTF, PDF, or HTML.
  • Email your documents as attachments.

Check out the Google documents Getting Started Guide.


  • Create new spreadsheets.
  • Import and convert .xls, .csv, .txt and .ods formatted data.
  • Export .xls, .csv, .txt and .ods formatted data and PDF and HTML files.
  • Use formatting and formula editing so you can calculate results and make your data look the way you want it.
  • Chat in real time with others who are editing your spreadsheet.
  • Embed a spreadsheet, or individual sheets of your spreadsheet, in your blog or website.

Check out the Google spreadsheets Getting Started Guide.


  • Create new presentations, then share and edit presentations with your friends and coworkers.
  • Import and convert existing presentations in .ppt and .pps file types.
  • Download your presentations as a PDF, a PPT, or a TXT file.
  • Easily edit your presentations.
  • Insert images and videos, and format your slides to fit your preferences.
  • Allow real-time viewing of presentations, online, from separate remote locations.
  • Publish and embed your presentations in a website, allowing access to a wide audience.

Google Drive Change Notification

Currently Google offers a feature that will notify users when collaborators make changes to or edit shared documents only for spreadsheets. To receive an email notification of changes to spreadsheets that you either have created or that have been shared with you, in your spreadsheet, click Tools>Notification Rules or Share>Set Notification Rules.

Using Google Finance

How can Google Finance help you with your research?

Google finance is useful when you are looking for basic information about a compnay, stocks, funding, etc. Here are a few features that will help you focus and refine your searches.

Company Search

Use both the company name and ticker symbol to get information on:

  • stocks
  • mutual funds
  • public and private companies

Financial News Stories

Aggregated from over 4,500 English news sources, Google Finance groups stories by topics allowing you to see several different opinions on a single issue and plotted chronologically.. There are company summary pages with financial review features.

Interactive charts

News stories are correlated to market data from parallel time frames showing you the relationship between them. You can quickly see how the market responds to news stories for a specific company.

    Google Maps

    About Google Maps

    Putting together a presentation where a map will enhance your work?

    Google Maps enables you to look up and study addresses in many other countries. You can:

    • research public transit options
    • get business information
    • view maps in satellite, terrain, and StreetView

    Google Maps has many easy-to-use features that allow you to:

    • refine your search to a specific business and review businesses
    • perform two or more consecutive searches
    • save and send your maps

    See Google Maps Tips for Life for many details on how to leverage the power of Google Maps.

    Here are some examples of how you can use Google maps in your course work:

    • History: take virtual tours of museums
    • Physics: use Google maps to learn about speed, velocity, and displacement
    • Earth Science: try Google Maps Mashups to locate and learn about tsunamis, earthquakes, mudslides, and more

    About Google Mars

    Google Mars is created through collobrations with NASA researchers at Arizona State University.  Working with Google, they have created some detailed scientific maps of Mars. Google Mars works the same as Google maps, complete with landmarks and other features.

    You can get to Google Mars through Google Earth.

    Exploring with Google Mars!


     Get to Google Mars through Google Earth.


    When you first launch Google Mars you see an Elevation view with bright colours indicating various altitudes. There is a convenient scale at the lower left of the screen.

    Navigation is similar to Google Maps:

    • arrows on navigation bar
    • zoom slider on top left
    • mouse can select and drag areas of the map
    • mouse can zoom in or out

    Other map views are:

    • Visible - landscape in grayscale
    • Infared - mosaic of thermal images (colours highlight temperatures- warmer areas are bright and cooler areas dark)

    In either of these views you can toggle between features like:

    • regions
    • spacecraft
    • mountains
    • canyons and craters
    • dunes, plains, and ridges
    Pass your mouse over any feature and a description bubble will appear with details.

    About Google Oceans

    With ocean in Google Earth, you can:

    Dive beneath the surface and visit the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench
    Explore the ocean with top marine experts including National Geographic and BBC
    Learn about ocean observations, climate change, and endangered species
    Discover new places including surf, dive, and travel hot spots and shipwrecks

    Getting Started

    Get started with Google Sky by downloading Google Earth. From a drop down menu choose the "switch to sky" item. Your first vision of the sky are the constellations Pegasus, Libra, and Virgo.

    Click on an image of interest and a description bubble appears offering information and photographs on:

    • galaxies
    • planets
    • stars
    • blackholes
    • and more

    Much of this information is retrieved from the Hubble Site or Hubble Showcase and other third-parties.

    Use the Google Sky Layers feature to truly explore this application. Try the Backyard Astronomy feature to observe the sky as you would through a pair of binoculars. Choose from other layers:

    • Constellations
    • The Moon
    • The Planets

    About Google Earth

    "Google Earth is an interactive mapping application that allows users to navigate (or "fly") the entire globe, viewing satellite imagery with overlays of roads, buildings, geographic features, and the like. Educators can use it to assess and bolster students' visual literacy. Students can use it to develop a context for spatial and cultural differences globally."

    Source: Educause, 7 things You Should Know About Google Earth

    Availbe in three versions:

    Check out the Google Earth YouTube Channel for video showing intermediate and advanced features of Google Earth:

    • satelliteworld coverage
    • 3D buildings
    • terrain: mountains, valleys, below the sea
    • map data
    • historical imagery

    Google Earth has a broad scope of coverage and dozens of features, for more help click Google Earth Help.

    Marine Debris

    Google Earth Outreach

    Edge of Existence

    Evolutionarily Distinct Globally Endangered (EDGE) species are mapped through Google Earth Outreach. Find details of each species by using the pop-up balloon feature on the map providing you with:

    • a placemark of the species within its habitat
    • a photo of the species
    • a summary of its origin, habitat, etc.
    • list of threats

    Creating a Google Tour Map

    Google News

    Why use Google News?

    Google News is a "computer-generated news site that aggregates headlines from more than 4,500 English-language" news agencies. You can personalize your Google News page to get a more detailed or a wider perspective of world events. Google News retrieves stories through a computer algorithm evaluating online story frequency.

    Google News has a set of newspapers that have been archived. These are papers that have been scanned in so that you can actually do searches across them.  You will see when a paper has been active and when the scans are available.  It is a great way  to get into the topic in your area and start to understand what’s going on historically and what was considered to be important news during a point in time.  

    Using news filtering and time filtering you can see the original uses of words or phrases and start to understand how things start to link together and how ideas change over time. 

    You can:

    • easily search historical news articles in major newspapers and magazines, and legal archives
    • see how people and events have been described over time using the timeline feature
    • see content available to all users from some of the world's largest news sources - BBC, Time Magazine, Globe and Mail, Washington Post
    • search top stories worldwide in business, technology, sports, health, entertainment, and much more
    • set up alerts
    • access a mobile friendly versions of Google News on your cell
    • set up RSS feeds
    • and personalize it

    Read more about Google News

    There are many search strategies and tips to use when searching Google News. See Advanced News Search for help.

    Search for Canadian Newspapers

    Google News [rovdes lists of all newspapers scanned and available in the Google News Archives.  For a list of newspapers in Google News Archive (with links) look here.

    Use Google News Advanced Search to help narrow your results to the region or dates you require.

    For older articles, be sure to change the "Return articles added to Google News between" date to something that works for your search, i.e. 1/1/1901).

    Google News Search Alerts

    If you want to limit your Google alerts to news stories only. Google News

    1. Go to Google News.
    2. Do a search for your topic.
    3. Scroll to the bottom of your search results page.
    4. Click on "Create an email alert for "your topic" (if you prefer RSS feed, scroll to the very bottom of the page and click the RSS icon for the feed URL).
    5. Select the desired options on the form.
    6. Enter your email address, and click "Create alert".
    7. Google will periodically email you newly published papers that match your search criteria.


    About Online Privacy & Google

    Privacy considerations are increasing when using the internet and understanding what that means to you can be challenging and frustrating. Keeping your data and personal information secure is essential.  Privacy is now viewed by European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as a right, which when breached can harm us by undermining our ability to maintain social relations.  Research shows that a large number of people underestimate risks to their information privacy when online. 

    Take a few minutes and learn more about Google's Privacy Policy.


    Hugi, Ulriki. Reviewing person's value of priviacy of online social networking. Internet Research 21(4). pp 384-407  DOI 10.1108/10662241111158290

    Google Privacy

    "We have five privacy principles that describe how we approach privacy and user information across all of our products:

    1. Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services.
    2. Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices.
    3. Make the collection of personal information transparent.
    4. Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy.
    5. Be a responsible steward of the information we hold.

    Source:  Google

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