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Advanced Research for CRP Grads

Google Alerts

Have Google notify you when something new appears in the search results for a topic of interest. Here's what to do:

  • Visit
  • Create a Google Account if you haven't already
  • Click "New Alert"
  • Type in your search terms (e.g. "economic development" to search for information on economic development specifically from government websites)
  • Click "Create Alert"
  • You'll receive a daily email with the latest news!

Advanced Google Searching

Be specific.
As we all know, there is a huge amount of information on the web, and any search you do will provide you with far more results than you could ever look at. However, being as specific as possible will help you bring the most relevant results to the top.

Use quotation marks for phrases.
If some or all of the words you type in belong together to constitute a phrase, be sure to put them in quotation marks. If you don’t, Google will look for those words anywhere in the webpage, and not necessarily together.

Capitalization does not matter.
Word order does matter. Altering the order of your words can alter the number of results you get and the order in which they appear. There doesn’t seem to be any particular rhyme or reason to this.

Exclude unwanted words with minus sign (-).
Eliminate unwanted results by putting a minus sign in front of a word or phrase (e.g. bass –music to search for bass fishing but not bass guitar).

Force Google to include words it normally doesn’t recognize using the plus sign (+).
Certain common words are ignored by Google (e.g. the, or, if). Force it to recognize one of these words by putting a plus sign in front of it (e.g. star wars episode +1).

Use the OR operator.
Google automatically uses the AND function between words that you type, meaning that all the words have to be there. You can use OR to allow it to find either one word or another (e.g. vacation paris OR london)

Limit to a particular file format (filetype:).
Particularly useful for limiting to pdf documents, in the hopes that these will be more likely to be research articles (e.g. filetype:pdf).

Search for synonyms with the tilde (~).
Often you know there are multiple words to describe a concept. Google allows you to automatically search for synonyms (for example, sustainability ~landscape finds words like garden and nature as well).

Search only for pages within a particular domain or website (site:).
Search only within one certain website (e.g., or use this function to limit to a particular top-level domain (e.g. site:edu)

Search for your words in titles only (intitle:).
This function searches only in website title. However, note that this "title" is found in the header of the HTML file and displays only on the title bar of the browser — this is often not the same as the document title displayed on the webpage, and often webpage creators forget to update their titles. E.g. intitle:"landscape architecture."

Find online definitions (define:).
Google will search for online definitions, e.g. define:sustainability). Use quotation marks if you want to define a multiple word phrase (e.g. define:"landscape architecture"). Be sure to go to the website that Google has pulled the definition from and evaluate it for appropriateness before using it in your research.

RSS Readers

Blogs and news websites now often offer RSS feeds, which allow you have that site’s news automatically imported into your RSS Reader, so that you only have to go to one place to read all your news sources.  Examples of popular RSS Readers include:

  • Google Reader
  • Bloglines
  • Netvibes

Here's what you need to do to get going with RSS:

  • Sign up for an account with your RSS reader of choice
  • Go to the blog/newsletter you want to subscribe to online. Look for an icon like this: or .  Click the icon.
  • On the subsequent page that appears, right-click on the text that appears in the address bar.
  • Return to your RSS reader and choose the "subscribe" option (this will differ depending on the reader). Paste the copied text in to subscribe to that feed.