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CMJ 103: Public Speaking & Information Literacy Guide

Search Strategies

There will be times when you find that your search terms are yielding an overwhelming or irrelevant set of results, and other times when you're not getting nearly the number or types of items you thought would be written on your topic. There are different strategies you can employ to enhance and/or refine your searches in order to get closer to the types of sources you're looking for (and, hopefully, to a more manageable number of them). This takes time and practice, and is iterative in nature, so play around with your search terms and strategies, and don't forget to ask a librarian for help!

Hacking Google for Information


There are many ways to hack Google, in order to conduct more complex searches and focus your results. In the above example:

  • intitle: refers to any terms you want to ensure are in the title of the web page itself (in this case, that would be "climate change")
    This often produces a more relevant set of results.
  • quotation marks around "climate change" hold those words together so that Google searches for that exact phrase (rather than a search that returns the word climate or the word change)
  • ~coast tells the search that you want terms related to the word right after the tilde (~); for coast, this might include terms like coastal, coastline, waterfront, shoreline, and seaside
  • minus sign in front of Alaska tells the search to exclude Alaska-related terms from your results
    If there are places, topics, or issues that aren't relevant to your particular topic, you can exclude them this way, so that you have a more focused, relevant set of search results.
  • tells Google that you only want results from government websites; you can also use specific sites after site:, such as or
  • The date limiter can be found in the Tools section of your Google search (the Tools section is linked directly below and to the right of the search bar)
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