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Search the Web: sub-module 3 of 5 of how to research

Learn some of the best strategies for searching the web, including powerful Google tips and tricks, and using Google Scholar for locating scholarly journal articles on the web, and in your library's databases. 


Web Search Tips

  • Before you startThink about what kind of information you need, and where it might come from. Do you need statistics, opinions, scholarly articles, government reports, a corporate annual report, etc.?
  • Use Google filtersGoogle provides filters that allow you to limit your results by date range, format, country of upload, and more. Check out the menu of options at the top of your results page, and see the video to the right on this page for tips. 
  • Google ScholarTry Google Scholar to find open access scholarly articles AND scholarly articles in your college's library databases. See the video below for tips.
  • Learn Google Search ShortcutsThere are many different shortcuts you can include in your search, such as site-specific searching to find information on certain types of websites, as well as in-site searching to find information on one particular websites. See the “Searching Google” box on this page for more.

Google Research

Google is a powerful search tool, but its additional features are under-utilized. Learn about the various filtering and advanced search features available to you.

Things to consider:

  • Research can be done using multiple tools such as Google and library databases.
  • Always evaluate what you find to ensure that you're using credible sources in your assignments.

When you do a Google search, you can filter your results to see only news, videos, books, and more.

Google search for "black lives matter" showing the types of results options below the search bar.

To filter your results, choose the type of results (News, Videos, etc.) from the menu at the top of the results list. Click More to see other options such as Books.

To filter news by date:

  1. Search for your chosen search terms and click News from the menu.
  2. Click Tools to display the Tools menu for News.
  3. Click Recent and select a time frame from the drop-down menu, depending on how recent you want the news articles to be.

Google search for "black lives matter" showing the filter options below the search bar. "Recent" search results are selected in the drop-down menu.

Check Statistics Canada (Recommended Website)

Statistics Canada is a website and government agency legislated to provide statistics for Canada and each of its provinces.

Find More Statistics through Google:

Find more statistics by Googling the topic you want to know more about and adding the words Canada statistics. For example, Homeless youth Canada Statistics.

Google search bar with "Homeless youth Canada Statistics" typed in it.

As with all research online, be sure to assess the following aspects of the information:

  • Currency (how old are these statistics?)
  • Authority (who published these statistics?)

Find Images on Google

Google allows you to filter your search results to images. When searching for images for your assignments, search for images that you are allowed to reuse.

To search for reusable images in Google:

  1. Search for your chosen search terms and click Images from the menu.
  2. Click Tools to display the Tools menu for images.
  3. Click Usage Rights and select Creative Commons licenses from the drop-down menu. This will narrow your results to images with Creative Commons licenses.
  4. Filter your search by size, colour or image type as needed using the options in the Tools menu.
  5. Click on the suggested keywords to narrow your search with more specific keywords, as needed.

The image search result tools in Google search. The image tool menu includes options to specify the size, color, usage rights or type to change your results. A list of suggested keywords to add to the search appear below the tool menu.

Cite Images

Just like information, most images you use will need to be cited or attributed in some way. When you find an image you are allowed to use, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did my instructor tell me the image has to be cited in APA or MLA format, or that I just need to "give credit"?
  • Is there a specific way the website is telling me to give credit, such as the image creator's name and URL?
  • What is the URL of this image? (It's not just!)

For more information on citing images, visit the Build Citations page of the Research hub.

Use Quotation Marks Around the Entire Phrase

By using quotation marks in your search, you can search for an exact phrase where specific words are directly beside each other. For example, “improve your body image”.

Google search bar with "improve your body image" typed in it.

Use Quotation Marks Around an Important Word

Sometimes, if Google can't find results for all of your search terms, it gives you results of the best match. To ensure that all results MUST include a particular word, you can use quotation marks around that important word, e.g. “body image” and “food”

Google search bar with " "body image" and "food" " typed in it.

To search search for information on pages within a single website:

  1. Start your google search with site:
  2. Add the website URL, e.g.
  3. Add your search terms, e.g. covid-19

This will retrieve all pages on the specific website that contain your search terms. In the example, google would retrieve pages on (Government of Canada travel website) that contain the term COVID-19.

Google search bar with " covid-19" typed in it.


  • You don't need to include the http://www. part of the URL.
  • Make sure there are no spaces between the word site: and the beginning of the URL.

You can search for specific types of websites by searching for specific domain types.

  1. Type your search terms into the search box.
  2. Add site: and the domain type for which you are searching, e.g. children poverty

Google search bar with "children poverty" typed in it.

Common domain types and their meanings:

  • .ca (Canadian)
  • .edu (US-based post secondary institutions)
  • or (Canadian Government)
  • .gov (United States Government)
  • .org (often used by non-profit organizations)

You can search for specific files, such as PDFs, by adding file: followed by the document type after your search terms. E.g. Elon Musk file:.pdf

  1. Type your search terms into the search box.
  2. Add site: and the domain type for which you are searching, e.g. children poverty

Google search bar with "Elon Musk file:.pdf" typed in it.

Common file types:

  • .pdf (PDF)
  • .doc (Microsoft Word)
  • .ppt.(Microsoft Powerpoint)
  • .xls (Microsoft Excel)

You can open Google Advanced search using either of the following methods:

The Settings drop down menu below the Google search bar. The "Advanced search" option is selected.

The Advanced search options page is shown with several text fields for advanced page finding.

Tips for Wording Your Search

The Advanced Search Screen gives you tips on how to write out your search. For example:

  • Using quotation marks will keep words together as a phrase, e.g. "elon musk"
  • Using a minus sign (-) will exclude certain words, e.g. "elon musk" -spacex
  • Capitalization does not matter.

Google Scholar is a search engine for scholarly articles and case law. Not all articles will be full text, and these search results will be different from the articles you will find by searching through your college library; however, if you cannot access an article through Google Scholar, you may be able to find it in Library Search.

Features of Google Scholar

  • Date range: Choose the currency of your results.
  • Cited by: View other articles that list this article as a reference.
  • Citations: Click on the quotation mark to get an auto-generated citation. Just be sure to check it against the library's citation guides before including it in your assignment.
  • Related articles: If you find a good article you can see similar ones.
  • Create alert: If you will be working on a project over the course of a semester, set up an alert to get notified when new articles are published that match your search terms.

Google Scholar search with " "new mothers" and "sleep deprivation" " typed in the search bar. A list of articles resulting from the search are shown. The date range filter, create alert, citations, cited by and related articles features are highlighted on the page.

Tip: Don't miss out on articles.Set up Google Scholar - open in a new window to check if the full text of articles is available via your college library.