Tips for faster, more precise Google search
In the past, research was laborious, involving several trips to the library to haul out encyclopedias. Now research can be done in seconds, thanks to search engines like Google.
Not all websites are reputable. Sites that end with .com or .org are slanted toward a particular commercial entity’s or social group’s purposes. We need to be aware of such biases when using information from these sites.
In research, sites that end with .gov or .edu are generally more acceptable but even in these sites there can be subjectivity.
For my academic and research work as well as for the purposes of this column, I prefer a Google Scholar search instead of plain Google in order to access peer-reviewed journals immediately.
According to Google Philippines, Filipino students use Google for homework. Data from June showed that many people (presumably students) searched for panitikan, “what is science” and “chemistry.”
Not everyone is doing homework. Many people also Google-searched “Man of Steel,” “NBA Finals” and “Miami Heat.”
How can search be optimized? Google Philippines gives several tips.
To get results from a specific website, type the information you are looking for, followed by “site:” and then the website.
For example, when I typed “2013 elections,” the first thing that popped up was a Wikipedia entry. Wikipedia is well and good but not exactly the most accurate site for academic purposes.
When I typed “2013 elections site:comelec.gov.ph” the entries that popped up were directly from the Commission on Elections site.
This “site:” feature enables us to zero in on facts rather than commentary, blogs, rants and so forth—unless we deliberately direct our search to them.
Use the knowledge panel on the right side of the Search page. When we google (now used as a verb, google refers to any Internet research) information about a person, a place or an event, Google instantly gives answers on the knowledge panel, complete with facts, figures and graphs to help us get an idea of the major features immediately.
When I googled “chocolate hills,” it came as no surprise that the Wikipedia entry came first, the Bohol.ph site second and answers.com third, all waiting to be clicked.
But the knowledge panel on the right already had a photo of the Chocolate Hills, a map showing its location (Carmen, Bohol), a first-sentence description from Wikipedia, the area (59 square kilometers) and the address (Balilihan).
To my amusement, there was even a button for “Directions,” a rating based on Google reviews (4.1 stars out of 5, if you must know) and, in the spirit of commerce (Google is a for-profit company, after all), other suggested search sites (for churches in Bohol, Banaue Rice Terraces, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River).
The knowledge panel offers hints when we are looking for public data. For example, when I googled “GNP Philippines,” the graph of our GNP (gross national product) from 1980 to 2011 appeared, together with trend lines of GNP of Thailand and Vietnam.
Apparently, in 1980, our GNP was slightly higher than Thailand’s but Thailand has overtaken us since. In 2011, Philippine GNP was US$393 billion, lower than Thailand’s US$581.4 billion and higher than Vietnam’s US$285.5 billion.
The knowledge panel also included a map showing the Philippines in relation to Vietnam and Thailand, a Wikipedia definition of the Philippines and related 2011 statistics, such as GDP or gross domestic product (US$224.8 billion), population (94.85 million) and life
expectancy (68.76 years).
The panel also offers a comparison of our GDP with other countries’—Indonesia, US$1.091, and the United States, $15.21 trillion.
Just in case we want our information in a specific file type, we can type “filetype:” then the type of file. For example, when I googled “GNP Philippines filetype:xls” I was directed to a document from the World Bank, in Microsoft Excel, containing the GNP of several nations, including the Philippines.
Language and math
Instead of reading Webster’s in print or even online, we can find the meaning of a word by just typing “define:” and then the pertinent word.
For example, when I typed “define:onomatopoeia” the syllabication and the pronunciation appeared, followed by part of speech (noun) and then two definitions [“the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g., cuckoo, sizzle); the use of such words for rhetorical effect”].
Calculators may now be superfluous, since Google can also do basic operations, even those involving algebra and trigonometry. I googled
234(34 – 23)] – [21/7 – 10] and was rewarded promptly with an online calculator and the answer 2581.
Now armed with the Google calculator, I decided to test a more complicated query. So I typed “tan pi/4 + 5! – log 1000” and happily got 118.
Google also acts as a currency tool, clock and weather station. I typed “convert 100 RMB to Philippine peso” and got “715.78 pesos” (as of press time). I typed “London time” and immediately got the corresponding time at that moment.
“Hong Kong weather” resulted in a seven-day forecast, including current date and time, current temperature, chance of rain, humidity, wind speed and high and low temperatures.
We live in a Google world.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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