Google Like a Boss

Overview and Purpose

Rather than a “post-truth” world, we actually live in a “deep-truth,” however, we must overcome disinformation and algorithms to discover relevant authoritative information. Not all information can be indexed by Google, you must know specifically where on the web to search. 


Students will learn to:

  1. Power search using Google to surface the most authoritative sources and documents, and cut through the clutter, save time, energy and avoid errors
  2. Go beyond Google to find and search scholarly or specialized databases and other authoritative web-based resources.
  3. Research the authoritative web to add context, history, and detail to your reporting.
Advice to get your students started

Always use a cocktail of sources for your newsgathering research, to add context, detail, and history to your reporting. Combine Google searches with other searches: news article databases, scholarly databases, social media sites, public records, find experts, etc.

“Research is failing up,” this means you learn more with every search, which you should apply to your next search. – Quote by Stephanie Margolin, Instructional Design Librarian, Hunter College.  

Keywords are very important to make sure you get the most relevant results:

Instructors bring your students up to the podium to do these various Google search examples with operators, while you and the class talk them through the searches.

Here is a Google search to start with:    (undocumented OR unauthorized OR illegal) immigrants

Unfortunately, government agencies still refer to undocumented immigrants as “illegal” or “aliens.” You must include jargon used by government agencies and scholars in your searches to find critical information and data.

This Google search:   (undocumented OR unauthorized OR illegal) immigrants

Note the search uses the OR command (OR is capitalized).

Think of the above search like a math problem – it will retrieve results containing: undocumented and immigrants; unauthorized and immigrants; illegal and immigrants.


Phrase search
  • Phrase search – Use quotation marks in Google to search words next to each other in the results: “universal literacy initiative”
  • It works really well with names:  “wesley bell”
  • If you don’t want to miss a middle initial or middle name, use an asterisk:  “wesley * bell”
Domain Search
  • Domain Search =   site:
  • –  this searches only within the nytimes domain
    • Syria
  • You can do this with any domain or domain type. Ask students what type of information you would find on each of these domains :
    • Site:edu, site:gov; site:org
Filetype Search

“hate crimes” filetype:xls – searches Google for the phrase hate crimes, in excel spreadsheets only. Why would you want to find spreadsheets?

  • You can also search:
    • Filetype:pdf – why would you want to find pdfs?
    • filetype:doc
    • filetype:ppt
Verbatim Search
  • Use quotes around a single word to search it verbatim and not search any variations of that word. A student was looking for how many undocumented immigrants worked in the landscaping industry. Google results included the “landscape” of immigration. The search below forces Google to only find results pertaining to the word “landscaping”:

(undocumented OR unauthorized OR illegal) immigrants ”landscaping”

Exclude a word from your search
  • If we are searching for stories on Brownsville Brooklyn, and keep getting results that include Brownsville, Texas, we can search: Brownsville -Texas
Exercise #1 Keyword Brainstorming - the difference a word makes:

Have your students do a search for the number of packages delivered to NYC apartments. Discuss their results, did they find anything relevant?

See if any of your students used different keywords and came up with these relevant Google Searches:

number of “parcel deliveries” in (NYC OR “new york city”)

Residential “parcel deliveries” in (NYC OR “new york city”)

Filter your Google Results by Date

On your results page, click on the Tools button, then choose a date range to search within.