Now, we come to the part of writing which can be endless, unless you have a strategy. While part of the charm of the Internet is having a vast library of information available at your fingertips, the down side is that you can go into information overload. How do you know where to start? How do you know which article or website is relevant? How do you organize all that information so that when you start to write, you can easily look things up? How do you get exactly what you want from Google without wasting time with search results that just waste your time?
It's not as simple as just typing a few words into the Google search box. To be a really good researcher (and, thus write awesome articles), you have to know how to quickly find information, how to store it carefully for later use, and most importantly, knowing when to stop researching and start writing! Here, in this chapter, we'll review some strategies for searching on Google, and also the overall plan for your research time.
Planning Your Research Out
Before we get into the "nitty gritty" details of finding the articles on Google that are most relevant, let's discuss what you are going to do with them when you find them. Some people just decide to capture as many URLs as they can for a particular topic, but that isn't the best strategy. For one, without any kind of idea as to what each URL includes, you can't organize your thoughts well enough. You will open one URL after another trying to find the one that you remember that had a specific topic. Or, you won't even remember the information in each URL and you will find your topic outline and research to be water downed or of poor quality.
The moral here is that you can't rely on your memory or just a cursory system of URL links to be able to generate great topics and decent outlines. You need to have a better view of the research that you did and how to eventually organize it in a way that reduces the amount of time you spend searching or re-reading article after article trying to locate the one that you remember. While a list of links is a good memory aide, it's not really a system for organizing research. You want something that you can open and by briefly reviewing your organized research, you have the facts and information you need almost instantly. That means that you aren't just going to need the URL, you will need to do more than that, although the URL is a good start.
Maintain File Continuity
The best way to organize your research is to put it all in one file. Later, if you ever get another assignment for the same topic, you can always open that one file and use some of your old work or add new items to it too. And, yet, it's always in one place, filed in a one document available and easy to find based on the name of your topic. For this exercise, a Word document is one that works very well. You need something that you can cut and paste entire Internet articles into without reaching a space limit or a problem with formatting. So, don't use Notepad, try to use a fully featured word processing program like Microsoft Word. If you don't want to go through the trouble of using a paid program, you can use OpenOffice to create your files too.
The first thing you want to do before you start a research session, is to open up your word processing document and add a descriptive phrase of exactly what you are looking to research. This will help you later when you are pulling up files to see if they include information you can use in other articles. It also precisely funnels your energy in the right direction and gets you ready to look for a specific area of research. So, pay attention to how you phrase your descriptive title or phrase. It sets the mood for your research session.
Now, you will begin by using the word lists you generated in the previous posts to help you locate relevant articles in Google. We will go into more detail about this at the end of this report. But for now you simply want to be able to decide whether the URL you open in the research results is going to aide you in writing an article or not later on.
For that, you need to keep in mind whether it matches your needs, as stated in the descriptive phrase at the top of your document. If the information is too general, not for your particular audience, or too detailed for your descriptive phrase than this can be a reason not to include it in your stored research. In that case, you will need to either drill down more into Google, or put different words or phrases in the Google search engine.
However, if the information does match your needs, then you will want to store a few bits of information for later use.
Include Matches in Your Research Document
You finally found something relevant! Well, now you have to include it in your research document by cutting and pasting the ENTIRE article into the document. That's why you need something more than Notepad. You will want to include the URL at the top, so that if you ever need to locate the document again online, you can. And, for the last step to organize this research article to make it most effective, you will want to highlight all the parts of the article that you found most helpful in your research. The reason for that is that later, when you are writing, you don't have to re-read the entire article. You can just skim the highlighted sections and find what you want much more quickly.
Get The Most from Google
Google has various features that make it ideal for researching. On the main screen you can see three of these features: Advanced Search, Preferences, and Language Tools. The most important of these is the Advanced Search feature, but we'll discuss all three.
The advanced search allows you to refine the criteria that the search engine uses to return a set of results. Instead of just putting in a key phrase or keywords from your word list, you have the option to see a visual guide that serves the same function as some of the operator we'll discuss later. For instance, you can exclude certain words in your search. You can have one or another set of words be included in your search results. You can even tell Google which format file to include in your search results. You can also use Google to search a particular domain or website on the Internet and ignore all others. This can be great if you want to only look for videos on YouTube or even just pull up articles from domains with a .edu extension.
One of the nicest things you can do with the Advanced Search feature is that you can tell Google to add more results per page. So, if the standard 10 results slows down your research, you can pull it up to 20 or even 50. It will take longer to load but you'll spend less time hitting the next page option too. It will give you a quick view as to whether the keyword or phrase you are using is worth continuing with or to move on quickly to another.
There is also a place in preferences to set the number of results per page. And, there is also a way to have the results open in a different browser window. If you use Internet Explorer, this will load a whole new copy and then open the window, slowing things down. If you use Firefox, it will open the new page in a different tab, making your search that much more convenient, if it doesn't apply. You don't have multiple copies of the browser loaded and you can easily view the results and the articles from different tabbed pages.
In this area, you can tell Google that you are only interested in articles written in English, or any other language in the "search language" area. This is also the place where you will find out how to block results with explicit sexual content. Since many of those sites also contain viruses and tracking cookies that can bog up your research by infecting your computer with hidden programming that hogs your memory and slows your machine to a crawl. So, you can have it use strict filtering, if you know that's not the topic you're researching.
This area isn't as important as the other two areas, but you should know something about it. It does offer you a language translator, in case you get back an article in a different language that you want to read. It's typically easier to avoid non-native speaking articles to keep your research moving quickly though, unless there's some reason why a foreign article is appropriate to your topic.
Using Regular Expressions (Operators)
Just like math has operators for plus, minus, and so on to facilitate operations when you combine numbers, Google has word and sign operators to facilitate combing keywords or phrases in their search box. We discussed the AND operator prior, but there are a great many more than can help you find what you are looking for in a laser-like fashion, helping to speed up the entire writing process.
Let's go over a few symbolic operators for you to get to know and work with:
The "+" sign - In Google, the plus sign tells the search engine that the word is necessary for the search. This is important because Google ignore certain words to speed up search results; words like a, the, an, at, for and more. So, if you are searching for a book title, for instance, and want to see articles about The Search For Truth, then you will either have to put a plus sign next to those stop words of the and for or you will have to put the entire phrase in quotes to signify that you want an exact match for the entire phrase. So, you could type into the search box: +The Search +For Truth or "The Search For Truth" and get what you want. However, if you just type in The Search For Truth, your results will ignore the word The and For in the majority of results.
The "-" sign - This one works in the opposite way to the plus sign. Instead of forcibly including the word next to the sign, the minus sign forcibly excludes any articles with that word from showing up. It's a great way to narrow down the topic search results so that it becomes very highly defined. It works for things where marketers also may be hogging the first few pages with extraneous results that are meaningless to your query. For instance, say you are looking for cell phones, but don't want to include Nokias, your query would look like this: "cell phones" -Nokia.
The "~" sign - This sign will include all the synonyms of the word that it is placed next to. For instance, if you wanted to find articles with different nuances for the word fast, you would add the tilde sign next to it and it would add in articles that might reference quick, rushed, speedy, and so on. In that case, your query for fast games would look like this: ~fast games.
There are other types of operators, as we discussed earlier, that come in text format (instead of symbol format). These we'll discuss here.
Site: - This operator is used to tell Google that you are searching within a specific site only. So, if you want only articles about acne from a specific acne site, you can use the following query: acne site:www.youracnesite.com .
Allintext: - Google will try to return results for a set of keywords, but if it finds some and not others it will still return the page if that's the best it can do. In order to tell it that you want only those articles with all those keywords in it, then you use the allintext: operator. So, for example, say you want to include articles with TV's that are cheap and only from Sony. Then your query would be: allintext: "TV's" ~cheap Sony. It's also good for keeping out search results that aren't text-based articles.
So, now you are starting to get a view of how to combine the different operators to really get the exact search results you need. In the above example you used three different ways of redefining the search query. You used the allintext: and the ~ and the quotes. If you hadn't put cell phones within quotes, you might have gotten something to do with cell batteries or cell towers. If you didn't add the ~ next to the word cheap, you wouldn't necessarily pick up all the different synonyms of cheap and yet, you asked the query to return only those articles with these keywords. So, if the ~ sign weren't there, and instead the article talked about inexpensive cell phones from Nokia, the query would have ignored it. With the ~ sign, it will pick it up as being allintext too.
Allintitle: - This is similar to allintext, except the focus is on the title of the page, not the text of the page. So, if you want only web pages with some of your phrase or keyword within the title to be returned, you would use this operator. For instance, if you were looking for articles on exotic birds and want that as part of the title, your query would look like: allintitle:"exotic birds" or allintitle:exotic birds. The first would mean the words in the title would have to show up together and the next one means they can be anywhere in the title.
Allinurl: - This is also similar to the last two, except the focus is to find every website url with the specific search terms you specify. It would work exactly as the above example, except using allinurl: instead of allintitle:.
There are many more operators that one can learn and use when doing Google researching. These are just a few of them, and this eBook doesn't have sufficient space to include them all. However, the intent is the same: To refine the search results so that you spend less time weeding through page after page of Google search results that aren't relevant to your research. For that, we have one final word of advice to weed out the wheat from the chaff, and that's the website called "Give Me Back My Google."
This type of service is necessary as the Internet grows and more and more marketers flood the library with what essentially comes out to be spam. Fortunately, if you go to http://www.givemebackmygoogle.com you can use that service to help eliminate many marketing sites that flood the search engine with results that are worthless to writing articles; sites like PriceRunner, NexTag or other price comparison sites.